More on New Jersey’s Plain View Exception to the Warrant Requirement

As I said in my previous article, New Jersey has yet to drop the inadvertence requirement from the plain view analysis as was done by the United States Supreme Court in Horton v. California, 496 U.S. 128 (1990). This issue was first presented to the Appellate Division in State v. Damplias, 282 N.J. Super 471 (1995). However, the court declined to rule on whether the inadvertence requirement (the second prong of the test) is still an essential element under Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution. The court simply noted that the test for inadvertence has two prongs: 1) Did the police know in advance where the evidence was located? 2) Did the police intend beforehand to seize the evidence? If the answer to both questions is yes, then the discovery of the evidence is not inadvertent and the plain view exception does not apply. However, if the answer to the first prong is yes and the answer to the second prong is no, the the inadvertence requirement is satisfied. Seven years later, the New Jersey Supreme Court had an opportunity to clarify the issue but declined to do so. In State v. Johnson, 171 N.J. 192 (2002), the Court avoided the question and declined to rule on whether the inadvertence prong is still a requirement under the State Constitution. The Court simply held that, to the extent that the inadvertence requirement still exists in the wake of the Horton decision, it was satisfied in the Johnson case. Accordingly, it appears that the inadvertence prong is still part of the analysis in New Jersey with regard to the plain view exception to the warrant requirement.