I recently represented a client in Howell Township Municipal Court who was charged with marijuana possession under 50 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia. These are two disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey which include up to six (6) months in the county jail on each charge, a driver’s license suspension of six (6) months, and a permanent criminal charge on your record if convicted (subject to expungement after five (5) years in certain cases).
Based on the circumstances of the motor vehicle stop and the arrest, I filed a Motion to Dismiss based on a lack of probable cause for the traffic stop. In this case, the my client was at a jewelry store when the police were called based on the alarm going off. The store employee told the officers when they responded that the alarm was false and that she forgot the alarm code to disarm it. However, the arresting officer stated in his report that the my client “looked suspicious”, “was nervous”, and “wouldn’t look him in the eye”. However, the officer did not question my client at the store or detain her in any way. Instead, he allowed my client to leave the store, get in her car, and drive several miles away when he pulled her over. The basis for the traffic stop was the previous supposed “suspicious activity” of my client that he witnessed at the store. However, there was no motor vehicle violation or probable cause for the subsequent traffic stop. As a result, the officer pulled her over for no legal reason and the motion to suppress and dismiss the subsequently illegally seized evidence was granted. Because the initial traffic stop was invalid, any subsequent search and evidence is “fruit of the poisonous tree” and was illegally obtained.