The Supreme Court of New Jersey Clarifies “Plain View” Seizures (Sort of): State v. Gonzales

“(P)lain view” seizures were recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443 (1971).  The doctrine is true to its name: it permits warrantless seizures of illegal contraband that is in the “plain view” of law enforcement.   This is the law in New Jersey too.  State v. Bruzzese, 94 N.J. 210 (1983).

There is common sense at work here.  If law enforcement finds evidence out in the open, it would be unduly burdensome and illogical to require the State to leave the evidence in place while it secures a warrant to support the necessary seizure.

But this exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement requires a dash of kismet and a dollop of good luck: law enforcement must be in the right place, at the right time, to discover and seize the evidence. If they are not, then they cannot.

Yet, what if such a happy fortuity is more than luck, but is also the product of some prior planning or scheming?  What if law enforcement’s actions are challenged as pre-textual?  When and how is the subjective intent of the police to be considered in evaluating the validity of a “plain view” seizure? Continue reading “The Supreme Court of New Jersey Clarifies “Plain View” Seizures (Sort of): State v. Gonzales”

The Supreme Court of New Jersey Narrows the State’s Expungement Statute

N.J.S.A 2C: 52-2(a) permits the Superior Court to expunge convictions of certain classes of offenses under certain enumerated circumstances. As one example, the applicant seeking the remedy must have been “convicted of a crime,” but “…not convicted of any prior or subsequent crime.” The statute also bars from eligibility those who plead guilty in one proceeding to multiple offenses committed within a short period of time.

But what exactly does this last limitation mean in practice? Last week, the Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed and answered this question in In the Matter of the Expungement Petition of J.S. (A-84-13) and In the Matter of the Expungement of the Criminal Records of G.P.B, (A-2-14). So now while a quantum of doubt has been eliminated (and that is always a good thing), the statute is now more restrictive (and, for defense practitioners, this is decidedly not a good thing). Continue reading “The Supreme Court of New Jersey Narrows the State’s Expungement Statute”

Supreme Court of N.J. Issues Two Significant Search and Seizure Opinions

Partner Eric R. Breslin, in Newark, discusses the uptick in the Fourth Amendment search and seizure and ancillary privacy litigation in the last few years in the New Jersey courts. In just April and May 2015, the state Supreme Court issued two significant opinions that would impact both the Fourth Amendment and proper admission into evidence of monitored telephone calls from State of New Jersey v. Ricky Wright and State of New Jersey v. Kingkamau Nantambu. Even through a quick look at the court’s docket for the upcoming term has shown even more decisions coming.

To read the full text of the article, please visit the Duane Morris website.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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