Flight from an Illegal Detention not an Offense – State v. Williams

This morning’s Appellate Division decision in State v. Williams involves a defense appeal of a motion to suppress. The police in this case responded to a vague, anonymous tip about a person selling drugs. The tip stated that a man wearing a black jacket was selling drugs in a high crime area. Upon encounter a man meeting that description in a purported high crime area, the police immediately attempted to conduct a pat-down search. The suspect fled the police but was apprehended a short distance away. A search incident to his arrest for fleeing the scene of the detention resulted in the recovery of a firearm.

The defendant’s motion to suppress in the Law division was denied.

The Appellate Division reversed and ruled that the police had no reasonable suspicion to either detain or conduct a frisk of the defendant based upon the vague conclusions in the tip. Moreover, the fact the defendant fled what constituted an illegal investigative detention by the police does not constitute an offense under New Jersey law, so long as the flight does not involve violence or the high potential for injury to the police.

In essence, flight from an illegal investigative detention does not constitute a violation of NJSA 2C:29-1 unless the flight creates a high risk of injury to the police.

Download a copy of State v. Williams

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