A third exception to the search warrant requirement is the automobile exception. The automobile exception to the warrant requirement is shown, according to the United States Supreme Court, “if a car is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe it contains contraband.” Pennsylvania v. Labron, 518 U.S. 938, 116 S.Ct. 2485, 135 L.Ed.2d 1031, 1036 (1996). Under New Jersey standards, as enunciated by the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Colvin, 123 N.J. 428, 437 (1991), no warrant is required when “the police have no advance knowledge of the events to unfold” and there is the need for prompt police action. Thus, New Jersey, the warrantless search of an automobile is permissible if three criteria are met: 1) the stop is unexpected; 2) the police have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband or evidence of a crime; and 3) exigent circumstances exist under which it is impracticable to obtain a warrant. State v. Pena-Flores, 198 N.J. 6, 28 (2009), citing State v. Cooke, 163 N.J. 657, 667-668 (2000). Under this exception, if the police have probable cause to believe that a particular vehicle contains contraband, the police may search the entire vehicle, including a container which could be expected to contain contraband. United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 825 (1982); Carroll v. United States. 267 U.S. at 149; State v. Esteves, 93 N.J. 146, 151 (1983). This exception is attributable to the diminished exception of privacy that attends car ownership and use. South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 367 (1976); State v. Esteves, 93 N.J. at 504.
If you or your family has had a search of your vehicle or person, without a search warrant being served, speak with a criminal lawyer who is experienced in challenging search warrants and searches without warrants in NJ. The lawyers at Aiello, Harris, Abate have the experience and knowledge to protect your rights and defend you against criminal charges.
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