New Jersey & Search Warrants
NEW JERSEY SEARCH WARRANTS
New Jersey, like Pennsylvania, allows police and law enforcement to obtain search warrants in criminal matters if they believe that they can find evidence of a crime at a specific location. The evidentiary standard for a warrant is very similar in both states – probable cause.
Probable cause is a reasonable belief, based on an officer’s experience, training, and knowledge that evidence of a crime will be found or that crime is occurring at a specific location. I have written previous articles about probable cause and it is a higher evidentiary burden than reasonable suspicion but much lower than what is needed to convict someone at trial—guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Probable cause is the same standard to arrest someone in either state.
All warrantless searches in New Jersey are presumed unconstitutional but it is a rebuttable presumption which the State can overcome. With that said, if your case involves a warrantless search the state is required to file a brief at a motion to suppress once the defense notifies the court of its intention to seek the order excluding evidence. When a warrant is used however, the burden to initially file the brief is on the defense as indicated in New Jersey’s Rules of Criminal Practice.
New Jersey, like Pennsylvania, maintains the right against illegal search and seizure in its constitution (Article I, Section 7; Pennsylvania Article I, Section 8; US Constitution, 4th Amendment). A motion to suppress evidence is an extremely strong defense tool especially in crimes involving illegal guns, narcotics, and other controlled substances (CDS). Gun crimes and crimes involving illegal narcotics are indictable offenses in New Jersey (AKA felony offenses in Pennsylvania). This means that if you are charged with a crime involving illegal guns, narcotics, or guns there is usually a presumption of state incarceration (crimes of the 2nd degree or higher).
How Police Get Search Warrants
To obtain a search warrant police need probable cause and they can satisfy the requirement in different ways. There is no exact methodology and the court will consider the strength of a probable cause argument based on the totality of circumstances. This means that the state can and usually does use evidence of observed transactions, positive drug tests, confidential informants, wire taps, anonymous tips, and any other evidence at its disposal.
It is usually much more difficult to challenge a search warrant search than a warrantless one, but it is not impossible! Your criminal defense lawyer should challenge the basis of the search if you believe that the police have entered your home, business, or vehicle without probable cause. Again, while New Jersey and Pennsylvania do permit warrantless searches, the burden is on the state to show that such searches are constitutional.
Waiving Your Constitutional Rights – DON’T DO IT!
Finally, if you are charged with any crime and fail to file a motion to suppress evidence before trial, you, through your defense lawyer, waive the right to do so after trial. This means that you cannot argue this defense on an appeal which is a tremendous disadvantage especially if your arrested and charged with a crime involving the illegal possession of drugs, narcotics, handguns and firearms.
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