Many drug cases in New Jersey involve serious constitutional issues. This is because drug charges often stem from police searches – which may or may not have involved a warrant or probable cause.

The Times of Trenton recently reported that a car accident investigation on Interstate 295 in Hamilton led to a police search and a drug arrest.

According to the report, New Jersey State Police found drug paraphernalia and crack cocaine in a vehicle that was involved in an accident Sunday. They arrested the driver, a 60-year-old man, and he has since been charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled dangerous substance.

Few additional details have been reported about this car accident and the subsequent drug arrest, so at this point it is difficult to speculate whether police had probable cause to search this man’s vehicle.

Probable cause is a very complicated concept. In general, police do not automatically have probable cause simply because they are investigating a minor traffic infraction. When police notice drug paraphernalia in plain sight, however, probable cause likely exists, meaning police may legally search the rest of the car.

Both the New Jersey state constitution and the U.S. Constitution provide protection from unreasonable search and seizure, and it is important for the police to respect this right. Those who face drug charges following a search and seizure may benefit from criminal defense representation. Even when it is determined that a police search was conducted legally, it is still possible to build a strong defense.

Source: NJ.com, “Accident on I-295 in Hamilton leads to drug arrest,” Brendan McGrath, Sept. 1, 2013