Search & Seizure Overview

New Jersey Search and Seizure Law Overview

Movies and television have taught many of us to demand a warrant if a police officer asks to search us, our car, home or other property. Unfortunately, reality is more complex than drama, and New Jersey search and seizure laws give police considerable leeway to act without a warrant.

An illegal search and seizure may stop a criminal prosecution in its tracks. But a judge must rule on a defense motion to say a New Jersey cop acted illegally in a search and seizure. In our adversarial judicial system, this means you must credibly question evidence from an illegal search and/or seizure for it to be ruled impermissible.

Below, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall provide an overview of search and seizure laws in New Jersey and the legal services we provide in this area. Our attorneys are deeply experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorneys who were prosecutors and public defenders in N.J. courts for decades before joining our firm.

As your defense team, we can put 100 years of combined legal experience into making sure your Constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure are enforced as you face criminal charges. We may be able to have evidence against you excluded or charges dropped.

If you or a loved one have been arrested and face indictment for a criminal offense in New Jersey, or you have been indicted, call us now. If your arrest has been tainted by an illegal search and seizure, we can move quickly to ensure your rights are protected.

What Does New Jersey Law Say About Police Searches?

The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees protection from searches and seizures conducted by the government or its representatives unless the state first provides good reason and identifies what should be searched or seized and why.

Article I, Section 7 of the New Jersey State Constitution provides identical protection, stating that:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue except upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the papers and things to be seized.

This is not protection from all searches and seizures. It applies only to those done by the government and deemed unreasonable under the law. (Police and other law enforcement personnel are agents of the government.)

In theory, a police search is valid only if the state has probable cause and a valid warrant. In reality, every day innocent New Jersey citizens are subjected to police stop-and-frisk searches and other incidents in which drugs, weapons or other evidence is seized by police following a warrantless search.

Indeed, there are numerous allowances that make stop-and-frisk, highway traffic checkpoints and other police stops that lead to a search, seizure and subsequent arrest legal. But, they are made legal by standards set forth by case law established by judicial interpretations of the state and federal constitutions. And legal standards set by case law are open to additional review and interpretation.

Our criminal defense practice deals with extremely complex and demanding search and seizure issues just about every day. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is known for creative and strategic criminal defense tactics, and we apply this approach to questioning how evidence against our clients was obtained.

We press local prosecutors to the limit when it comes to proving that a search was proper. When police actions do not stand up to our questioning, we do not hesitate to file motions to invalidate arrests or suppress improperly obtained evidence.

Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall if your arrest included an:

To ensure that your rights are protected according to the law and the Constitution, you need to engage an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after being arrested. Set up a free initial legal consultation with the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall at any of our nine locations in New Jersey today.

How We Can Protect You from Illegal Search and Seizure

The Constitution protects you from unreasonable search and seizure, and police in New Jersey are trained as to what is and is not permissible. But illegal searches lead to improper seizure of evidence and faulty arrests every day.

You will never know whether your rights were violated or be able to challenge an illegal search without the assistance of a criminal defense attorney experienced in New Jersey courtrooms. Prosecutors are in business to obtain convictions. They, as well as judges, have little interest in a defendant’s protestations about fine points of Constitutional or case law pertaining to search and seizure rights in New Jersey.

The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can protect your right to privacy and freedom from unreasonable intrusions by the government via police searches. Our attorneys have long-standing relationships with local prosecutors throughout New Jersey. We can reach out and count on being heard when we raise questions about your arrest.

When a violation is evident, we can move promptly to petition the court to suppress relevant evidence or drop charges. The sooner we can get involved in your case, the better we can ensure the courts uphold your rights.

A law enforcement officer can make a search of a person and their immediate surroundings (clothes, car, etc.) subsequent to an arrest. It is also legal to conduct a search without a warrant if the officer has permission (consent) of the person or property owner, or has probable cause to believe that:

  • A crime has been committed, is being committed or is about to be committed
  • An individual is in possession of a dangerous weapon
  • A person is in danger (known in New Jersey as the “community caretaking” exception)
  • The officer has reason to fear for his or her own safety
  • The search is of an area to which no constitutional privacy protection exists, including abandoned property
  • Contraband, evidence of a crime, or items otherwise subject to seizure is in “plain view”
  • Exigent circumstances will make it impractical to preserve evidence if required to undergo the hardship of obtaining a search warrant

Search and seizure issues are often described as among the most fact-sensitive aspects of a criminal case. When a search or seizure is challenged by a defendant through a motion to suppress at the trial court, the burden is on prosecutors to establish the constitutionality of the search.

Once the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is engaged as your defense team, our attorneys will obtain your side of the story and statements from witnesses, and otherwise investigate your arrest. Based on the evidence, we will subject the validity of the search and seizure in your arrest to thorough questioning. Among our questions is always whether racial, ethnic, socio-economic, gender, or other bias played a role in you having been stopped and frisked, searched, and arrested.

There is voluminous case law in New Jersey pertaining to search and seizure issues, and as challenges continue, judicial interpretation of the standards may be narrowed, broadened, eliminated or created anew. There is always reason to review the circumstances of an arrest that involved a search and seizure of evidence.

An experienced criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can make sure prosecutors answer questions about search and seizure issues surrounding your arrest and/or the evidence against you. And we can stop prosecutors who don’t answer adequately.

Let Our Attorneys Examine Police Search and Seizure in Your Arrest

The attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have the knowledge, experience and standing in New Jersey courtrooms to ensure that your constitutional rights are not subordinated to the interests of the police. Our defense team can make sure evidence against you obtained through an illegal search and seizure is disallowed, and move to have related charges dropped or downgraded.

Schedule a free consultation with our respected New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at one of our nine New Jersey offices today.