Police Stops and Vehicle Searches

Interviewer: Once you’re pulled over for a standard traffic violation, for whatever reason the officer is pulling you over, does that officer then have an automatic right to search my car? I know you had mentioned about smelling the alcohol. Can they take it a step further and actually search the vehicle or do they have to have a warrant?

If the Officer Sees Contraband in Plain View, a Warrant Is Not Needed to Search the Vehicle

Jacqueline: No, they don’t have to have a warrant. However, it’s an area which is the subject of a lot of court actions because of our constitutional protections of your rights to privacy. It is very fact sensitive.

If the officer during his investigation sees something in plain view, he can search the vehicle. If he sees for example, a bag of marijuana sitting on the car seat, he will have a right to ask, “What is this?” and take and even do a field test of it.

If You Are Asked to Allow a Search, Were You in Custody at the Time?

Sometimes an officer asks the driver, “Can I look in your car?” A lot of people will say yes. There becomes a fine line here. Did you believe that you were in custody or not? You have the right to say no and let him go and get a warrant.

Very often, that doesn’t happen. People tend to say, “Okay, fine. You could take a look.” Once the officer opens your trunk and then sees that there are a number of liquor bottles in the trunk, the lawyer has to undo the permission that was granted by establishing, “Okay, you had no right. These people felt that they were being ordered to do this and that they had to do this.”

It’s an area that’s very individually fact-sensitive as to what exactly went on? How did this person feel? Did the officer, in the course of his investigation, believe that there were some criminal actions going on? On what basis?

Your Attorney Can File a Suppression Motion If It Is Believed That the Search Was Not Constitutional

A motion, called the suppression motion, can be made in which the police have to testify in great detail as to what was going on at the time. Your clients are entitled to have a suppression hearing if there is some doubt as to whether or not the officer had a right to go in and search the car.

Interviewer: What is the process after I’ve faced my penalty and completed everything I’m supposed to do? What is the process then in New Jersey to help get my driver’s license reinstated? Is that something that my attorney can assist me with?

In New Jersey, You Have to Pay the DMV $100 to Restore Your License When the Suspension Period Ends

Jacqueline: No. At the time that the sentence is imposed or the loss of license is imposed, the attorney can just tell the client, “You can’t just start to drive again after the seven months is up.” In New Jersey, you have to pay Motor Vehicles $100 and affirmatively apply for your license to be restored.

That’s the process in New Jersey. You do not need a lawyer for it. All one needs to know is don’t make the mistake of just driving. You’ve got to go to DMV and pay the restoration fee of $100.

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