Muni Court Judge from Neighboring Town Can Issue Search Warrant – State v. Broom-Smith

On Friday, the Appellate Division ruled that when a local municipal court judge is not available to consider a search warrant application from the police, the warrant may be lawfully reviewed and issued by a judge in another town in the same county. In the underlying case, State v. Broom-Smith, the police sought judicial review by their municipal court judge to authorize a search warrant for a property located in the municipality. However, the local court was not in session that day and the judge was not readily available. Accordingly, the police went to the judge in a neighboring town and submitted their search warrant application to that judge who was holding a municipal court session. The neighboring judge signed the warrant. Execution of the search warrant yielded evidence of criminal activity.

Although the Rules of Court limit the authority of municipal court judges to issue search warrants for property located within their local territorial jurisdictions, the Appellate Division construed the Rules of Court to permit another municipal court judge in the same county to consider the warrant based upon a cross-assignment order signed by the vicinage assignment judge. Such an order permits every municipal court judge in the vicinage to serve as an acting judge of every other municipal court in the vicinage.

This case may have enormous significance when and if the Supreme Court authorizes municipal court judges to consider and issue telephonic search warrants following the pending task force report the Supreme Court order following the publication of State v. Pena-Flores, 198 N.J. 6 (2009)

Download a copy of State v. Broom-Smith.

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