Vehicle or Home Search Without a Warrant

State v. Brown blog post 4 of 4

Appellate Docket No.: A-4938-18T1

Decided June 11, 2020

Submitted by New Jersey Drug Crime Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In an unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division of New Jersey reversed a judgment of conviction after a motion to suppress was denied.  Consent was unlawfully obtained after getting consent from a motorist to search his home.

In State v. Brown, the defendant was stopped by police for failing to stop at a stop sign.  The defendant was asked the exit the vehicle after officers smelled raw marijuana emanating from the vehicle.  Upon exiting, the defendant admitted to possessing two bundles of heroin.  The officers placed the defendant under arrest, handcuffed him, and read him his Miranda warning.  Defendant consented to the search of his vehicle where officers recovered a bag of marijuana from the center console.

After defendant consented to the search of his vehicle, the officers requested and received consent to search his residence. Defendant was still in handcuffs when the officers drove him to his home and escorted him into the residence.  Officers searched his room and found drug paraphernalia. Officers searched a second room and defendant admitted that it was also his.  Finally in a third room, defendant consented to officers searching a safe which contained over 1,000 bags of heroin divided into twenty-one bricks.  The heroin in the safe had the same logo as the one in the defendant’s pocket.

The grand jury charged defendant with multiple crimes. The charges included first-degree operation of a facility for manufacturing heroin, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-4 (count one); second-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(2) (count two); third-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute while within 1,000 feet of school property, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 (count three); second-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute while within 500 feet of a public park, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1 (count four); third-degree possession of heroin, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1) (counts five and six); and fourth degree possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:36-3 (count seven).

Defendant moved to suppress, as the officers did not have a warrant to search his home.  The motion to suppress was denied and defendant appealed.  The Appellate Division, among other issues, analyzed whether consent had been lawfully obtained from the defendant.

in State v. King, 44 N.J. 346 (1965), the Supreme Court outlined factors to utilize to find whether a defendant’s consent was coerced:

(1) that consent was made by an individual already arrested; (2) that consent was obtained despite a denial of guilt; (3) that consent was obtained only after the accused had refused initial requests for consent to search; (4) that consent was given where the subsequent search resulted in a seizure of contraband which the accused must have known would be discovered; and (5) that consent was given while the defendant was handcuffed.

Additionally, the Court in King delineated three offsetting factors that can weigh in favor of a finding of voluntariness. Those offsetting factors are whether: “(1) consent was given where the accused had reason to believe that the police would find no contraband; (2) defendant admitted his guilt before consent; (3) defendant affirmatively assisted the police officers.”

With regard to consent to search of the defendant’s safe, the Appellate division found that offsetting factor 1 was not present, as the safe contained over 1,000 bags of heroin that the defendant certainly knew was there.  Further the Appellate Division found offsetting factor three to be absent because the Defendant was handcuffed in custody as the police escorted through his home and eventually to the safe.  Because of the absence of these offsetting factors and the existence of several factors leaning towards coercion, the defendant’s conviction was overturned.

If police have searched your home or your vehicle without a warrant, contact an experience criminal defense attorney today. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in Superior Court and municipal court for criminal matters and restraining orders like the present case. We vigorously defend our clients by fighting to ensure prosecutors, police, and even judges follow the law.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing criminal charges similar to this circumstance, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any town in New Jersey including Absecon, Atlantic City, Brigantine, Buena Borough, Buena Vista Township, Corbin City, Egg Harbor City, Egg Harbor Township, Estell Manor, Folsom, Galloway Township, Hamilton Township, Hammonton, Linwood, Longport, Margate, Mullica Township, Northfield, Pleasantville, Port Republic, Somers Point, Ventnor, and Weymouth Township.


Police Search Home for Drug Paraphernalia After Motor Vehicle Stop

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Defendant’s Consent to Home Search Coerced after Traffic Stop

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Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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