What is Reasonable & Articulable Suspicion mean in New Jersey in the confines of a motor vehicle stop??

State v. Nelson, New Jersey Supreme Court Decided May 8, 2019 —

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

We therefore consider whether a reasonable and articulable suspicion beyond that which justified the stop supported the canine sniff. See Dunbar, 229 N.J. at 540 (“[I]f an officer has articulable reasonable suspicion independent from the reason for the traffic stop that a suspect possesses narcotics, the officer may continue a detention to administer a canine sniff.”).

As Detective Kazan explained at the suppression hearing, he believed there was “reasonable articulable suspicion [that] there was crime afoot” based on the following factors:

(1) the initial tip from ATF;

(2) the moving violations observed;

(3) Nelson’s nervous behavior;

(4) Nelson’s conflicting trip itinerary;

(5) the lack of any personal belongings in the vehicle;

(6) the large bags in the cargo hold;

(7) Nelson’s admission of prior narcotics arrests; and

(8) the overwhelming smell of air freshener.

“In determining whether reasonable suspicion exists, a court must consider ‘the totality of the circumstances — the whole picture.’” State v. Stovall, 170 N.J. 346, 361 (2002) (quoting United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417 (1981)). To appropriately view the “whole picture,” the Court must not engage in a “divide-and-conquer” analysis by looking at each fact in isolation. District of Columbia v. Wesby, 583 U.S. ___, 138 S. Ct. 577, 588 (2018). The reasonable suspicion inquiry also considers the officers’ background and training, and permits them “to draw on their own experience and specialized training to make inferences from and deductions about the cumulative information available to them that ‘might well elude an untrained person.’” United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002) (quoting Cortez, 449 U.S. at 418).

Here, already informed by the tip from ATF, Detective Kazan was confronted with the “overwhelming odor of air freshener” emanating from Nelson’s car which, coupled with the detective’s observations, taking into account his training and experience, suggested criminal activity. We find that these factors, in conjunction with the other observations Detective Kazan discussed in his testimony, provided the detective with the reasonable suspicion necessary to prolong Nelson’s stop as they awaited the arrival of the canine unit.

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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