A Police Search of a Car’s Trunks and Other Obscure Areas Can be a Violation of a Person’s Rights in New Jersey

Under the New Jersey Supreme Court decision, State v. Witt  223 NJ 409 (2015), if a police officer detects the odor of marijuana, he is legally able to search the driver’s vehicle without a warrant. Since there were limited boundaries or guidelines set in place, police officers were using State v. Witt to search throughout motor vehicles, including the trunk. Recently, an Appellate Division case limited the parameters of warrantless searches conducted in motor vehicles. The case, State v. Maurice Houston, Docket No. A-0023-17T3 (2017), restricted the discretion police officers have in conducting motor vehicle searches, as maintained in State v. Witt, the seminal serach of a motor vehicle case in New Jersey. In State v. Houston, the Court held that the search exceeded parameters and became intrusive once the officers started searching in obscure places in the defendant’s motor vehicle. Continue reading