When is Evidence Illegally Obtained?
Several types of evidence fall under the scope of laws pertaining to illegally obtained evidence. Occasionally, evidence that may either greatly harm or help a side in a legal argument is presented. However, the evidence, regardless of relevance, may be inadmissible. That’s because the way in which the evidence was obtained is as important as its relevance and content.
In 2015, The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that New Jersey police officers must not search private property without a warrant in hand—even if another party previously searched the property and told authorities about a suspicious finding.
Under New Jersey’s doctrine, if a private actor (citizen, not law enforcement) searches a private home, it violates the law. In a case involving an Asbury Park, New Jersey woman, the landlord entered the premises after the woman (tenant) asked him to repair a kitchen ceiling leak. The landlord arrived with a plumber. The woman wasn’t home. After waiting 30 minutes, he opened the apartment door. He decided to check the apartment for additional leaks and found marijuana on a nightstand. He also saw what he thought was a box containing crack cocaine or powder.
The plumber and landlord called the police. One police officer searched the apartment and found drugs and a weight scale. The officer called for additional backup. The tenant’s consent was obtained at that time. Police noted drugs, paraphernalia, and a handgun with bullets. The tenant and her boyfriend were arrested. A grand jury in Monmouth County indicted the defendants on several counts, including second-degree firearm possession and an array of drug offenses.
At trial, the arresting officer said there was sufficient time to obtain a search warrant. The court claimed the apartment search didn’t violate the tenants’ Fourth Amendment rights. The defendants appealed to the state appellate court. Finally, the defendants’ case was heard by the New Jersey State Supreme Court. It determined that police in New Jersey must obtain a warrant to search a private home.
If you have concerns about illegally obtained evidence in a criminal matter, contact The Law Offices of John W. Tumelty, New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Criminal Trial Attorney, to schedule a review of your case.