Eckel Limited to Motor Vehicle Searches – State v. Oyenusi

This morning’s Appellate Division holding in State v. Oyenusi is important in that it further defines the parameters of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision from January 10th in State v.Eckel, 185 N.J. 523 (2006).

In Eckel, the Supreme Court ruled that a search of the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle incident to the arrest of one of the occupants violates the New Jersey Constitution.

In today’s decision in Oyenusi, the Appellate Division was asked to extend Eckel to searches of containers incident to an arrest outside the motor vehicle context. In this case, the defendant was arrested in front of his home, in public. At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of two white plastic bags. The bags were removed from the defendant’s control and, within a few moments of the arrest, were searched by the police. The police located incriminating evidence inside the bags.

The defendant argued that in Eckel, the Supreme Court intended to eliminate all searches of containers incident to an arrest under the state constitution, but the Appellate Division ruled that, apart from the automobile context, searches of containers in the possession and control of an arrested person may constitutionally be searched incident to an arrest.

Download a copy of State v. Oyenusi.

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