Defendants Have No Standing to Challenge Searches of Abandoned Property – State v. Johnson
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.
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