State v. Alamilla Appellate Docket No.: A-5952-17T1 Decided September 23, 2020
New Jersey Supreme Court Established bright line ‘probable cause test” in 2015:
Appellate Docket No.: A-5952-17T1
Decided September 23, 2020
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In an unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division of New Jersey reviewed a trial court’s denial of a motion to suppress 15 soil bags of marijuana found in the back of a tractor trailer, after the driver blurted a confession after being confronted by law enforcement. The key to the court’s decision is State v. Witt. (I have written about this case numerous times in the past.)
In State v. Witt, 223 N.J. 409 (2015), the Court recognized that the “multi-factor exigency formula [was] too complex and difficult for a reasonable police officer to apply to fast-moving and evolving events that require prompt action.” Id. at 414. The Court announced a bright- line rule governing the construction of the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. Id. at 447-48. Witt prospectively reinstated the test established in State v. Alston, 88 N.J. 211 (1981) and authorized automobile searches in situations where: “(1) the police have probable cause to believe the vehicle contains evidence of a criminal offense; and (2) the circumstances giving rise to probable cause are unforeseeable and spontaneous.” State v. Rodriguez, 459 N.J. Super. 13, 22 (App. Div. 2019) (citing Witt, 223 N.J. at 447-48). Such is the case here, where probable cause was spontaneously developed after the officers performed the investigative stop.