Warrantless Searches in New Jersey and Investigatory Stops How long can the police detain me without any ‘probable cause?


Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

[A]n investigative detention, also called a Terry stop or an investigatory stop, occurs during a police encounter when ‘an objectively reasonable person’ would feel ‘that his or her right to move has been restricted.

SUMMARY: In this case, police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at a motel room. They arrived at the scene and did NOT issue any municipal ordinance summons for any violations because the renter of the room immediately complied with their request to turn down the music. However, regardless of the renter’s cooperation, the Neptune police commenced an extended investigatory detention on a group of ten people and ran warrant checks on them without any probable cause of any criminal activity. More than twenty minutes into the detention, police arrested Deyvon Chisum for an outstanding warrant and discovered a concealed firearm on him. They then conducted pat-down searches on the remaining occupants and found a firearm on defendant Keshown Woodard. The trial court denied defendants’ motions to suppress the firearms, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court reviews that denial.

The Facts  Shortly before midnight on February 7, 2014, two Neptune police officers, Officer Harris and Officer Sibole, were dispatched to the Crystal Inn Motel to investigate a noise complaint. Officer Harris was familiar with the Crystal Inn Motel based on prior calls to the motel and the motel’s reputation as a site where criminal activity took place. (One of the key facts the police in Nepture, Atlantic City, Cherry Hill, Bridgeton, Vineland, Trenton, Pemberton, Willingboro, Elizabeth, Newark, Camden City, Lindenwold, and all other local town police rely upon when they show up at these ‘known locations’ is that these local town spots are alway’s areas of frequent criminal activity which includes drug deals weapons offenses, fights, and other activity fore which they are often called to the location.  Officer Harris was honest in his testimony and stated he could hear “loud music” and “multiple voices” coming from inside Room 221. He identified himself as a police officer and informed the occupants that the police were there in response to a noise complaint. From his vantage point, Officer Harris could see “about ten people” in the room. Officer Harris then asked to speak to the renter of the room, at which time Zykia Reevey identified herself as that person. She apologized for the noise and invited the officers inside. Around that time, three back-up officers arrived. Officer Harris, Officer Sibole, and one of the back-up officers entered the room, while the two other officers remained in the hallway as a safety precaution. Officer Harris spoke to Reevey, who lowered the volume of the music at the officer’s request.

The officers then asked Reevey and the other occupants of the room for their identification. The officers relayed the occupants’ information to dispatch to check for outstanding warrants. Officer Harris stated that the occupants of the room were not allowed to leave until the results of their individual warrant checks came back. The occupants were released from the scene on an individual basis, as each was cleared by the dispatcher.

Officer Harris did not issue any noise violation summons. He testified that the “investigation was complete when [Reevey] agreed to turn the noise down and [he] decided not to give her a summons for the ordinance violation.” In other words, the reason they were called to the scene no longer applied and there was no ‘new’ criminal activity they were investigating and they did not observe any new criminal activity while they were there such as smelling burnt or raw marijuana. When asked, however, why he and the other officers did not leave once Reevey turned the music down, Officer Harris explained that it is standard police practice to obtain a person’s identification in the course of issuing a summons for violation of a noise ordinance. According to Officer Harris, one of the reasons that identification is obtained is in the event of a callback to that location. The officers detained the occupants for a total of about twenty minutes while awaiting the results of the warrant checks.

The results of the warrant checks began to come back at 12:21 a.m., and at least three individuals were released. Woodard was cleared at 12:23 a.m. but either chose to stay on the premises or was not released. The warrant check for Chisum came back positive for warrants at 12:32 a.m., and he was placed under arrest. After handcuffing Chisum and escorting him into the hallway, Officer Harris conducted a search incident to arrest and patted Chisum down for weapons, revealing a handgun tucked into his waistband. The handgun was retrieved, and Chisum was secured in the hallway. Officer Harris ordered the remaining occupants in Room 221 to place their hands above their heads and informed them that they would all be patted down for weapons. The pat-down of Woodard revealed that he also possessed a handgun. The handgun was seized, and Woodard was placed under arrest. Chisum and Woodard were indicted for weapons offenses.

The trial court denied defendants’ motions to suppress the evidence. Chisum pled guilty to one weapons charge; Woodard pled guilty to one weapons offense and to a drug possession offense arising from an unrelated indictment. The Appellate Division panel affirmed. The Court granted defendants’ petitions for certification “limited to the issues of whether the police were authorized to detain the defendants and to conduct pat-down searches for weapons.” 232 N.J. 88 (2018).

Ruling: How long can the police detain me on the side of eat road for a traffic stop or at someone’s home?  What is the “Exclusionary Rule for unlawfully obtained evidence in New Jersey?

“The exclusionary rule ‘is a judicially created remedy designed to safeguard’ the right of the people to be to be free from ‘unreasonable searches and seizures.’” State v. Williams, 192 N.J. 1, 14 (2007) (quoting United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 348 (1974)). As this Court has opined, the exclusionary rule has a “two-fold purpose.” Shaw, 213 N.J. at 413. One “‘is to deter future unlawful police conduct’ by denying the prosecution the spoils of constitutional violations.” State v. Badessa, 185 N.J. 303, 310 (2005) (quoting State v. Evers, 175 N.J. 355, 376 (2003)). Under that purpose, “[t]he rule is calculated to prevent, not to repair. Its purpose is to deter — to compel respect for the constitutional guaranty in the only effectively available way — by removing the incentive to disregard it.” Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 217 (1960) (citing Eleuteri v. Richman, 26 N.J. 506, 513 (1958)). The second purpose of the exclusionary rule “is to uphold judicial integrity by serving notice that our courts will not provide a forum for evidence procured by unconstitutional means.” Williams, 192 N.J. at 14. “Simply put, the exclusionary rule removes the profit motive for those officials who would violate the Constitution.” Shaw, 213 N.J. at 414. “Because of the high price exacted by suppressing evidence, ‘the exclusionary rule is applied to those circumstances where its remedial objectives can best be achieved.’” Ibid. (quoting Williams, 192 N.J. at 15).

Warrantless searches and seizures are “presumptively invalid as contrary to the United States and the New Jersey Constitutions.” State v. Pineiro, 181 N.J. 13, 19 (2004). “Because our constitutional jurisprudence evinces a strong preference for judicially issued warrants, the State bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a warrantless search or seizure falls within one of the few well-delineated exceptions to the warrant requirement.” State v. Mann, 203 N.J. 328, 337-38 (2010) (quoting State v. Elders, 192 N.J. 224, 246 (2007)). One such exception is an investigatory stop of a person. State v. Rodriguez, 172 N.J. 117, 126-27 (2002).

“[A]n investigative detention, also called a Terry stop or an investigatory stop, occurs during a police encounter when ‘an objectively reasonable person’ would feel ‘that his or her right to move has been restricted.’” State v. Rosario, 229 N.J. 263, 272 (2017) (quoting Rodriguez, 172 N.J. at 126); see also Terry, 392 U.S. at 16 (“It must be recognized that whenever a police officer accosts an individual and restrains his freedom to walk away, he has ‘seized’ that person.”). “Because an investigative detention is a temporary seizure that restricts a person’s movement, it must be based on an officer’s ‘reasonable and particularized suspicion . . . that an individual has just

engaged in, or was about to engage in, criminal activity.’” Rosario, 229 N.J. at 272 (ellipsis in original) (quoting State v. Stovall, 170 N.J. 346, 356 (2002)). An investigative detention is permissible “if it is based on specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, give rise to a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.” Pineiro, 181 N.J. at 20 (quoting State v. Nishina, 175 N.J. 502, 510-511 (2003)). Conversely, an investigative detention “may not be based on arbitrary police practices, the officer’s subjective good faith, or a mere hunch.” State v. Coles, 218 N.J. 322, 343 (2014).

“[I]n determining the lawfulness of an investigatory stop, a reviewing court must ‘evaluate the totality of circumstances surrounding the police- citizen encounter, balancing the State’s interest in effective law enforcement against the individual’s right to be protected from unwarranted and/or overbearing police intrusions.’” State v. Privott, 203 N.J. 16, 25-26 (2010) (quoting State v. Davis, 104 N.J. 490, 504 (1986)). “An investigative detention that is premised on less than reasonable and articulable suspicion is an ‘unlawful seizure,’ and evidence discovered during the course of an unconstitutional detention is subject to the exclusionary rule.” Elders, 192 N.J. at 247.

There is “no rigid time limitation on Terry stops.” United States v. Sharpe, 470 U.S. 675, 685 (1985). “Case law has recognized law enforcement’s need to respond to the fluidity of a street encounter where there is a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing; accordingly, the duration of the investigative stop may be extended for a reasonable but limited period for investigative purposes.” Coles, 218 N.J. at 343-44. However, an investigatory detention may become too long if it involves a “delay unnecessary to the legitimate investigation of the law enforcement officers.” Sharpe, 470 U.S. at 687. Therefore, a continued detention must also conform to the constitutional requirement of reasonableness. Coles, 218 N.J. at 344. In Coles we provided guidance on this issue:

The reasonableness of a continued detention is determined through application of a two-pronged inquiry. First, the detention must have been reasonable at its inception. Second, the scope of the continued detention must be reasonably related to the justification for the initial interference. Thus, the detention must be reasonable both at its inception and throughout its entire execution. Therefore, “a seizure that is lawful at its inception can violate the Fourth Amendment if its manner of execution unreasonably infringes interests protected by the Constitution.” Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407 (2005). That is why police officers “must use the least intrusive means necessary to effectuate the purpose of the investigative detention, and the detention must ‘last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop.’” Coles, 218 N.J. at 344 (citation omitted) (quoting Shaw, 213 N.J. at 411). “[A] police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures.” Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 1609, 1612 (2015).

Our Court has recognized that “[t]here is [no] litmus-paper test for . . . determining when a seizure exceeds the bounds of an investigative stop.” State v. Dickey, 152 N.J. 468, 476 (1998) (second alteration and ellipsis in original) (quoting Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 506 (1983) (plurality opinion)). Therefore, “[i]n assessing whether a detention is too long in duration to be justified as an investigative stop, we consider it appropriate to examine whether the police diligently pursued a means of investigation that was likely to confirm or dispel their suspicions quickly, during which time it was necessary to detain the defendant.” Id. at 477 (quoting Sharpe, 470 U.S. at 686). “Even a stop that lasts no longer than necessary to complete the investigation for which the stop was made may amount to an illegal arrest if the stop is more than ‘minimally intrusive.’” Id. at 478.

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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