No Warrent Needed to Search Commercial Vehicles for Criminal Evidence – State v. Hewitt
In State v. Hewitt, released this morning by the Appellate Division, the Court held that police may conduct regulatory searches of commercial motor vehicles without a search warrant under an exception to the warrant requirement for administrative searches of pervasively regulated businesses. In Hewitt, troopers stopped a commercial truck operated by the defendant and conducted a regulatory safety inspection. During the search, the troopers discovered a large hidden compartment in the vehicle. The troopers established that there were probably drugs hidden inside the compartment. They then arrest the operator, towed the truck away and conducted a search of the compartment. Drugs were hidden within the secret compartment.
The Appellate Division ruled that the regulatory search conducted by the troopers was authorized under federal law. The regulations authorize a safety search of every part of the vehicle, including hidden compartments. Accordingly, the drugs recovered in the secret compartment were lawfully seized.
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