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Searching Without a Warrant Leads to Suppressed Evidence
State v. Jefferson – App. Div. May 21, 2010.
The charges against the defendant arose form a warrantless search of his person and his residence. The police had detained the defendant to investigate his involvement in a reported shooting of a firearm. When the police went to speak with him he was inside his apartment building, which was not open to the public, and they were standing outside the door. When the defendant stepped back from the door it opened a little and one of the officers wedged herself inside and eventually arrested the defendant. The Appellate Division said that it was unreasonable for the officer to wedge herself through the door and that it was unreasonable for her to believe that she was permitted to move to the threshold to view defendant’s entire body, and not just the top half.
There is no warrant exception that authorizes police to enter a home to make a Terry-type investigative detention of a suspect. However, because the defendant pushed the door into the officer and resisted arrest, the officer lawfully arrested him at that point and conducted a search incident to arrest. The drugs they found on his person at that point were admissible as evidence. The police also found drugs when they subsequently searched the apartment of the defendant and the court found that those drugs should be suppressed, even though the defendant’s girlfriend had signed a waiver, because that evidence was the fruit of the unconstitutional entry into the hallway and the initial sweep of the apartment.
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