Monthly Archives: May 2008

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.

Download a copy of State v. Hewitt.

Category: Muni-Mail Archive

Sometimes a one-car accident is not driver’s fault – Reilly v. AAA Mid-Atlantic Insurance

In New Jersey, insurance companies are permitted to assess so-called insurance eligibility points to drivers who are convicted of certain moving violations and to those who are involved in “at-fault” accidents. An “at fault” accident occurs when the carrier pays out damages in excess of $1000 and the insured is more than 50% at fault will result in 5 insurance points. An accumulation of 7 or more points over a 3 year period will result in cancellation of the auto insurance policy and banishment from the voluntary market. Such a driver will have to purchase future liability insurance in the assigned risk program.

In Reilly v. AAA Mid-Atlantic, the driver became involved in a single car accident on a hazardous, icy road. The driver claimed that he was not at fault in the accident, but the insurance company assessed 5 eligibility points anyway, under the theory that all single car accidents are the fault of the driver in every case. Due to these points, plus two others from an unrelated traffic ticket, the driver was not permitted to renew his liability policy with his carrier.

The driver challenged this outcome and during the driver’s administrative appeals of this point assessment, the Department of Insurance took the position that their regulation permitted a finding of driver fault in all single car accidents based largely on public policy.

This morning, in a case captioned Reilly v. AAA-Mid-Atlantic Insurance, the Supreme Court held that this particular regulation was unreasonable. The Justices went on to explain that ordinary concepts of negligence must be used as a guide to determine fault in a single car accident as opposed to administrative notions of public policy.

It should be noted that the victorious plaintiff in this matter argued the case on a pro se basis before the Supreme Court.

Download a copy of Reilly v. AAA-Mid-Atlantic.

Category: Muni-Mail Archive

Accused Superior Court Judge NOT GUILTY: ACJC

When a person files a complaint against a judge claiming judicial misconduct, the allegations remain confidential while under preliminary investigation by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (ACJC). Under the Rules of Court, claims of judicial misconduct do not become public until the ACJC finds sufficient cause to believe the allegations are true and files a formal complaint against the offending judge. Thereafter, the entire process becomes transparent and is handled publicly.

In In re Donohue, the ACJC conducted an exhaustive investigation into the allegations made against the judge, a process made all the more difficult by the complete lack of cooperation by the purported “victim” in the investigative process. At the conclusion of the investigation, the ACJC determined that there was no evidence to support any of the many claims of misconduct by the judge and closed the case. Not satisfied with this result, the complainant sought relief in the political arena by approaching members of the State Senate. Because of this action, the judge has authorized the public release of the confidential ACJC file and related investigative documents.

Download the allegations and the results of this ACJC investigation.

Category: Muni-Mail Archive

Laurick Applications Must be Made in Original Court of Conviction – State v. Schadewald

In this morning’s Appellate Division decision in State v. Schadewald, the Court ruled that a post-conviction relief application under State v. Laurick, 120 N.J. 1 (1990) must be filed in the municipal court where the original conviction occurred and not where the current case is pending. In Schadewald, the defendant appeared for a third offense DWI sentence and argued before the sentencing judge that he was entitled to relief under Laurick due to an uncounselled conviction in 1989 in another court. The sentencing judge rejected this application and the defendant appealed. The Appellate Division held that the proper venue for this application, as expressed in Rule 7:10-2(g) is in the court where the original conviction was entered. Accordingly, the Court allowed the defendant to file his petition for post-conviction relief under Laurick in the proper municipal court.

Of further note in this case was the retro-active application given to Rule 7:10-2(g) related to Laurick applications. The Court held that although the Rule did not go into effect until September 1, 2007, its procedure would apply to petitions that were filed prior to that date. It should be noted that this Rule of Court provides a five-year limitation on Laurick applications (Rule 7:10-2(g)(2)) which may now apply to petitions filed prior to September 1, 2007.

Download a copy of State v. Schadewald.

Category: Muni-Mail Archive