Abandoned Property Searches

Search of Abandoned Property

There is an exception to the Warrant Requirement that permits a police officer to search a car, house, or other piece of property when it is “abandoned”. While New Jersey law permits a search without a warrant where abandonment has occurred, whether this circumstance exists under NJ law is certainly a matter of debate in a given case. A knowledgeable and aggressive lawyer like those at our firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can have an Illegal Search based on abandonment set aside where the police have violated the law. One of our attorneys is available immediately at 1-877-450-8301 to review your case and provide you with the advice you need.

The rationale for eliminating the requirement of a warrant for a search of a house or Search of an Automobile that is abandoned is relatively straightforward. If someone intends to permanently give up their car, home or other possession, it is presumed that they are also relinquishing any expectation of privacy with respect to the item. What the law in NJ effectively does is strip an individual of any standing to challenge a search where he or she has given up the related property.

When does someone abandon property such that a warrantless search is valid?

Property is abandoned in accordance with New Jersey law (i.e. State v. Johnson) where the owner knowingly and voluntarily relinquishes any possessory or ownership interest in the item and there is no other apparent or known owners of the property. What should be clear from this definition is that abandonment hinges on a persons state of mind (i.e. does he or she have an intention to relinquish ownership) and is therefore an issue that is extremely fact sensitive. Nonetheless, where a suspect unconditionally “disowns” property when lawfully encountered by police, the definition of abandonment has been satisfied. Facts are often much less clear cut than an outright disavowing of a piece of property and, as a result, reported court decisions on this subject go both ways.

Our lawyers would be happy to speak to you by telephone at 1-877-450-8301 or to meet you in one of our offices for a complimentary consultation to discuss your Search & Seizure issue. Give us a call anytime 24/7 and a lawyer will provide the guidance you are seeking.