I represented a client last week who was charged with possession of marijuana (under 50 grams) in Kinnelon Municipal Court. I received the discovery package and upon my review of the video evidence from the police officer’s motor vehicle, it became very clear to me that this was an unlawful search and the evidence was illegally seized from the defendant.
In this case, my client was pulled over for having a cracked windshield. When the officer approached the vehicle, he allegedly smelled marijuana and asked the driver and the passenger of the vehicle to get out of the car. After searching them with negative results, he asked for consent to search the vehicle and informed the occupants that if they failed to consent to a search, he would “get the dogs and/or a warrant to search the car anyway”. My client consented to a search of the vehicle and the marijuana was found.
This is an illegal search in New Jersey. State law requires that the consent to search be voluntary and that “an essential element of such voluntariness is knowledge of the right to refuse consent.” State v. Johnson, 68 N.J. 349 (1975). At no point during this motor vehicle stop was my client informed of her legal right to refuse to consent to a search of her vehicle. The police officer also failed to have her sign a consent to search form which specifically advises her of the right to refuse to consent.
Based on this illegal search, I filed a motion to suppress the unlawfully seized evidence and the charges were dismissed against my client. This was the correct result in this case.