Monthly Archives: February 2008
Normally, defendants in New Jersey are accorded automatic standing to challenge seizures of evidence in violation of our State and federal constitutions. Today, the New Jersey Supreme Court created a new, narrow exception to the automatic standing rule. In this morning’s decision in State v. Johnson, the Supreme Court ruled that in a motion to suppress evidence, if the State can show that property where the evidence was recovered had been abandoned, a defendant will have no right to challenge the search or seizure of that property. Stated differently, a defendant will not have standing to object to the search or seizure of abandoned property. This represents a narrow exception to our automatic standing rule. For the purposes of standing, property is abandoned when a person, who has control or dominion over property, knowingly and voluntarily relinquishes any possessory or ownership interest in the property and when there are no other apparent or known owners of the property.5 That approach provides the strongest guarantee that the police will not unconstitutionally search or seize property, which has multiple apparent owners, merely because one person has disclaimed a possessory or ownership interest in that property.
Download a copy of State v. Johnson.
Earlier today, the United States Supreme Court ruled that individual states in our country are free to provide unlimited, retroactive application in post-conviction relief proceedings to the new rule of law announced back in 2004 in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004). In today’s case, Danforth v. Minnesota, the petitioner had been convicted in state court in 1996 of criminal sexual conduct with a minor. The evidence against the petitioner at trial was presented to the jury by way of a videotaped interview of the child victim. In 2004, years after the petitioner’s conviction had become final, the Supreme Court ruled in Crawford that although testimonial evidence in the form of hearsay may be admissible under state hearsay law exceptions, its use in a criminal trial violates the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment. As a result of this 2004 decision, the petitioner in Danforth moved for post-conviction relief in state court on his 1996 conviction. His petition was rejected by the Minnesota Supreme Court, largely on the basis that the Court believed it had no authority to expand the application of the constitutional rule of law expressed in Crawford.
The United States Supreme Court today reversed that holding and ruled that the state courts have full, discretionary authority to permit unlimited, retroactive application of the rule of law announced in Crawford in post-conviction relief applications for cases involving violations of state law.
This decision by the United States Supreme Court will require now New Jersey courts to decide whether or not to permit full, retroactive consideration of Crawford issues in post-conviction relief applications for convictions that occurred prior to the effective date of Crawford in March of 2004. By way of example, as a result of today’s holding, New Jersey courts could authorize post-conviction relief petitions on DWI blood cases from 2003 where an affidavit was submitted in lieu of live testimony by the person who drew the blood sample from the body of the defendant. (See generally State v. Renshaw, 390 N.J. Super. 456 (App. Div. 2007); State v. Kent, 391 N.J. Super. 352 (App. Div. 2007)).
Download a copy of Danforth v. Minnesota.
Last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Brendlin v. California, 127 S. Ct. 2400 (2007) that when the police conduct a motor vehicle stop, both the driver of the vehicle and any passengers within the vehicle are seized within the meaning of the 4th amendment. In yesterday’s decision in State v. Sloane, the New Jersey Supreme Court expanded the permissible investigative activities that the police may undertake with respect to passengers during motor vehicle stops. The Justices ruled that a passenger in a motor vehicle does not have any expectation of privacy in the information contained in the FBI’S NCIC database. Accordingly, when the police perform an NCIC look-up during the course of a motor vehicle stop, the look-up does not constitute a search within the meaning of the 4th Amendment. Since the look-up is not a search, the police do not need any level of suspicion in order to perform it.
Despite the foregoing, the Justices stressed several times in the opinion that since the passenger has been seized as a result of the motor vehicle stop, the police must act reasonably and conduct their investigation with dispatch so as to not unduly delay the period of time that the driver and passengers are detained.
The Court’s holding in Sloane may change police procedures during motor vehicle stops so as to require NCIC look-ups on all passengers as a matter of routine during every stop as opposed to look-ups on a discretionary basis, which seems to be the current practice around the State today.
Download a copy of State v. Sloane.
In a formal complaint released Friday afternoon, the disciplinary counsel for the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (ACJC) alleged that a Judge of the Superior Court used profane and intemperate language in open court and directed it at an attorney appearing before him. According to the complaint, the respondent judge stated to the attorney, “Get the [expletive deleted] out of my courtroom; What the [expletive deleted] don’t you understand?; Shut the [expletive deleted] up and get the [expletive deleted] out of here, I have a meeting this afternoon.” The disciplinary counsel further alleged in her formal complaint that this conduct violates several provisions of the New Jersey Code of Judicial Conduct.
The respondent judge will now have an opportunity to file an answer to the complaint and have the matter tried before the ACJC. If the ACJC finds by clear and convincing evidence that one or more provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct have been violated, it will return a presentment and recommend a particular quantum of judicial discipline. Final discipline in all matters of judicial misconduct must be imposed by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Download a copy of the formal complaint.