The New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Walker recently ruled that the warrantless search and seizure of the Defendant was permissible. In this case, undercover police officers observed the Defendant smoking a marijuana cigarette at which time he fled inside his apartment. The police followed the Defendant into his residence without a warrant and arrested him. The arresting officers claimed that they entered the apartment to prevent Defendant from fleeing, destroying evidence, retrieving a weapon, or in some other way impeding his arrest for possession of marijuana. Defendant was subsequently charged with possession of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana
Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence that was seized a result of the warrantless search. The motion was denied and Defendant entered into a plea agreement with the State to plead guilty to two counts of third-degree possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS) with the intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1), and one count of third-degree possession of CDS with the intent to distribute while within 500 feet of public housing, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1.
The Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress. The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the warrantless search and seizure was not prohibited. The Court recognized that a warrant is required for physical entry into the home because the primary goal of the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Paragraph 7 of the state constitution is to protect individuals from unreasonable home intrusions. The Court also reaffirmed that a warrantless arrest in an individual’s home is presumptively unreasonable. However the Court also recognized that exigent circumstances in conjunction with probable cause may excuse police from compliance with the warrant requirement
In this case the court found that the smell of marijuana itself constituted probable cause that a criminal offense had been committed. The Court also found that the Defendants actions (fleeing inside his residence) created an exigent circumstance, which was not created by the police. The Court further found that although the underlying offense here, possession of marijuana, is a disorderly persons offense, the circumstances indicate that the officers’ warrantless entry into defendant’s home was objectively reasonable Thus, the warrantless seizure of the marijuana cigarette and all the CDS found in defendant’s apartment was proper and permissible under the New Jersey and federal constitutions.
If you or a loved one needs strong representation to defend you against a drug possession charge or any other criminal charge, contact the defense lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele today. We are experienced criminal defense attorneys who are ready to defend the charges against you. Contact us now for your confidential and free initial consultation. You can also reach us by telephone (856) 546-1350.