Vehicle Search Incident to Arrest Disallowed in NJ – State v. Eckel

Today’s landmark decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Eckel affirms an Appellate Division decision from December 2004 which held that the exception to the warrant requirement dealing with motor vehicle searches incident to the arrest of one of the occupants, the so-called Belton Rule, does not apply in New Jersey due to the enhanced protections afforded under Article I paragraph 7 of the State Constitution. In its decision, the Supreme Court reasoned that after a person has been arrested, removed from a vehicle and secured by the police, the underlying reasons for a search incident to an arrest (recovery of implements of escape, evidence and weapons) no longer exists. Accordingly, a search of a motor vehicle under such circumstances is unreasonable under the State Constitution.

Today’s decision will have an enormous impact on law enforcement procedures in New Jersey and should be regarded as an enormous change in the law of arrest, search and seizure in our state.

Download a copy of State v. Eckel

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