Warrantless Search of Automobile for Identification

Search of Vehicle for Credentials

The law in New Jersey has long been that police may not search a motor vehicle for driver credentials like an insurance card, drivers license or registration, absent an Exception to the Warrant Requirement. A police officer’s alleged need for the information does not justify a warrantless search of a person or automobile to obtain the documents. Accordingly, a NJ police officer may not conduct a search of a car for purposes of obtaining a driver’s license, registration, insurance card or other documents unless a valid Automobile Search based on Probable Cause and Exigent Circumstances, or some other exception applies.

Although police possess a duty to determine whether a motorist is licensed, insured, and the owner of a vehicle, a search for the related credentials is not authorized by the law. The proper protocol is for an officer to detain the driver in an effort to confirm his identity. The police may even take the situation a step further by taking the driver into custody in hopes of confirming his identity but must not undertake a search of the vehicle at the scene as reiterated in State v. Pierce, 136 N.J. 184 (1994). If law enforcement need to go as far as taking the motorist into custody, a limited inventory search and search incident to arrest would be permitted.

If you were arrested following a search of your automobile or truck for “credentials”, then you should speak to one of our lawyers. We stared a good chance of setting the search and seizure aside and you have nothing to lose in reaching out to our defense firm as initial consultations with our attorneys are always into charge. A lawyer is available now to discuss how to defend your case in Bergen County, Ocean County, Monmouth County, Passaic County, Middlesex County, Morris County, Essex County, Union County, Hudson County or elsewhere in New Jersey. Call toll-free at 1-877-450-8301 as an attorney from the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall would be happy to assist you.