In this archive episode, Dennis is addressing K9 again. Recorded on 08/23/2017.

State v. William L. Witt (A-9-14; 074468)

The exigent-circumstances standard set forth in Pena-Flores is unsound in principle and unworkable in practice. Citing Article I, Paragraph 7 of New Jersey’s State Constitution, the Court returns to the standard articulated in State v. Alston, 88 N.J. 211 (1981), for warrantless searches of automobiles based on probable cause.State v. Alston :: 1981 :: Supreme Court of New Jersey Decisions :: New Jersey Case Law :: New Jersey Law :: US Law :: Justia

The automobile exception authorizes the warrantless search of an automobile only when the police have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband or evidence of an offense and the circumstances giving rise to probable cause are unforeseeable and spontaneous.

This standard is seemingly consistent with the Federal Standard.

Significantly, we also made clear in Alston, supra, that merely because “the particular occupants of the vehicle may have been removed from the car, arrested, or otherwise restricted in their freedom of movement,” police were not required to secure a warrant. 88 N.J. at 234.

Last, relying on Chambers, we emphasized that “when there is probable cause to conduct an immediate search at the scene of the stop, the police are not required to delay the search by seizing and impounding the vehicle pending review of that probable cause determination by a magistrate.” Id. at 234–35.

We also part from federal jurisprudence that allows a police officer to conduct a warrantless search at headquarters merely because he could have done so on the side of the road. See Chambers, supra, 399 U.S. at 52, 90 S.Ct. at 1981–82, 26 L. Ed.2d at 428–29.

“Whatever inherent exigency justifies a warrantless search at the scene under the automobile exception certainly cannot justify the failure to secure a warrant after towing and impounding the car” at headquarters when it is practicable to do so. Pena–Flores, supra, 198 N.J. at 39 n. 1 (Albin, J., dissenting).

Warrantless searches should not be based on fake exigencies. Therefore, under Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution, we limit the automobile exception to on-scene warrantless searches.

For the reasons expressed, the exigent-circumstances test in Cooke and Pena–Flores no longer applies. We return to the standard set forth in Alston for warrantless searches of automobiles based on probable cause.

Automobile by itself provides exigency satisfying the one prong of the two-prong necessity of a warrantless search, all you need is the probable cause.