No P/C Needed for NCIC Look-up of Passengers – State v. Slaone

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.

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