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...

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...

Orders to Exit Vehicles: Drivers

There is a distinction in New Jersey between orders by a law enforcement officer for operators and passengers of a vehicle to exit the vehicle during a motor vehicle stop. With respect to operators of a motor vehicle, New Jersey follows the federal position that police are free to use their discretion to order a driver from the vehicle during the course of a motor vehicle stop. This comes from the Continue Reading...

Orders to Exit Vehicles: Passengers (Part 2)

Central to the court's analysis in State v. Smith, 134 N.J. 599 (1994), was the fact that normally a passenger will not have committed any motor vehicle violation. Of course, this may not always be the case. There are numerous violations that passengers can commit. For example, failure to wear a seatbelt while seated in the front of a motor vehicle constitutes a violation of New Jersey law. In a Continue Reading...