Custody & Arrest Following an Automobile Stop

When Does a Motor Vehicle Stop Become an Arrest or Custodial Detention?

Assuming a police officer has made a valid Automobile Stop , he must conclude the encounter within a reasonable period of time otherwise the person may be considered in custody and/or under constructive arrest. This concept is important because when police keep someone at the scene of a stop too long, they must possess probable cause to arrest and provide Miranda Warnings to the accused. Where a search takes place or interrogation results in an admission after this threshold is passed, the evidence or statement may only be used where these requirements have been met. If you were arrested and believe that police unreasonably delayed you and thereafter conducted an improper search or interrogation, the lawyers at our firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can help you. The attorneys include multiple former prosecutors and our defense team possesses over 100 years of collective experience handling drug possession, weapon offenses, and other crimes in New Jersey. We can be reached anytime 24/7 at 1-877-450-8301 and a lawyer would be happy to assist you.

NJ Law: Custody & Arrest

Police are provided with a reasonable time period to secure the scene of a stop, for example, conduct a Protective Sweep, and to obtain and run driver credentials. The amount of time that can elapse before a situation becomes custodial is obviously fact sensitive (e.g. problems running credentials, lack of cooperation of operator, etc.). However, there is a point where the investigation crosses over into a situation where the operator and/or passengers are being seized such that state and federal constitutional protections are enhanced. Where a motor vehicle stop takes on the characteristics of a custodial interrogation or arrest, Probable Cause must exist to support the “de facto” or constructive arrest. An investigatory traffic stop creeps into this realm where the officer’s actions are more intrusive than what is necessary to investigate the stop. When drugs or some other form of incriminating evidence, such as a weapon, are uncovered or an incriminating statement is made following a constructive arrest unsupported by probable cause and Miranda, a Motion to Suppress should prove successful.

One of the seminal New Jersey cases on this subject is State v. Dickey. In that case, the NJ Supreme Court reiterated that whether an individual is in de facto custody is a fact sensitive determination that hinges on the degree of intrusion into the defendant’s liberty that takes place. It should be noted that factors like use of drawn weapons and handcuffs may significantly reduce the time that is reasonable since these are overt acts that limit an individual’s liberty. In Dickey, the court concluded that a two-hour detention was unreasonable. In a subsequent case, State v. Hampton, the Appellate Division held that a one hour detention was unreasonable under the circumstances thereby invalidating a Consent Search.

Lawyers are ready to assist you with questions or representation. An attorney is accessible now at 1-877-450-8301.