Protective Searches of a Motor Vehicle: Passenger Compartment

There are dangers police officers face when executing routine traffic stops. In Pennsylvania v. Mimms, the United States Supreme Court held that police may order persons out of a motor vehicle during a traffic stop and may frisk those persons for weapons if there is a reasonable belief that they are armed and dangerous. Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106 (1977). The Court decided the grounds upon Continue Reading...

Search incident to arrest under Federal Law

Search incident to a lawful arrest is another exception to the requirement that police obtain a warrant before executing a search. New Jersey law on this exception has been interpreted to provide New Jersey drivers with more protection under the state constitution than they would receive under the US Constitution. In Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969), the US Supreme Court ruled that when Continue Reading...

The Scope of the Search of the Interior of a Motor Vehicle

The search of the interior of the vehicle under the "Terry" stop and frisk exception to the warrant requirement is limited. The object of the search is weapons or other objects that could harm the police officer or others. Accordingly, when searching the interior passenger compartment of the vehicle, the police may only search those areas where a weapon may be placed or hidden. A limited Continue Reading...

Orders to Exit Vehicles: Passengers

The New Jersey Supreme Court considered whether the Mimms rule applied to passengers in New Jersey as well in State v. Smith, 134 N.J. 599 (1994). The Court found that ordering a passenger out of a vehicle is different from ordering a driver to get out of the vehicle because the passenger has not engaged in the culpable conduct that resulted in the vehicle stop. The court found that an order to Continue Reading...

Search Incident to Arrest under New Jersey Law

In the New Jersey Supreme Court case of State v. Pierce, the Court limited the application of the Belton rule. State v. Pierce, 136 N.J. 184 (1994). The Court held that the Belton rule of permitting searches incident to a lawful arrest during a motor vehicle stop would not apply in New Jersey in those situations where the underlying reason for the arrest was a violation of the motor vehicle laws. Continue Reading...