ACLU: Cops should need warrants to search NJ drivers’ cars
The New Jersey state Supreme Court's ruling that restored the ability for police officers to search a car without a warrant has the ACLU concerned.
Senior Staff Attorney Alexander Shalom of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union fears that the ruling means the state is no longer protecting motorists' rights.
"The state completely failed to show the 'special justification' that is usually required to overturn prior cases, and instead relied on self-fulfilling speculation of doom by arguing that it would be too difficult for officers to know when they needed to request a warrant," wrote Shalom. "A majority of the court accepted that speculative argument and set back the protection New Jerseyans have been provided for decades against warrantless automobile searches."
The ruling means that police can now search a vehicle without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe there is contraband or evidence of a crime, as long as the circumstances that led to the probable cause are unforeseeable and spontaneous.
The decision overturns a rule put in place six years ago that led to officers calling for warrants during many stops.
The decision comes in the case of William Witt, who was charged with weapons charges after police found a gun in his center console after pulling him over for not dimming his high beams.
Acting Attorney General John Hoffman says the ruling achieves an appropriate balance between protecting constitutional rights and public safety.
The Associated Press contributed to this report