New Jersey’s Supreme Court has a reputation of defending privacy rights from overreach by police and criminal prosecutors. In fact, last week we wrote about a New Jersey Supreme Court decision when the Justices held that a police search of an overturned vehicle was unreasonable and illegal. However, not every ruling by the court can be in the favor of the defendant or find overreach by the police.

The experienced criminal defense lawyers of the Law Firm of John J. Zarych analyzes the factors and circumstances surrounding the alleged discovery of contraband and prior to your arrest. Our lawyers are trained in spotting mistakes and other errors by the police and prosecutor that abridged or eliminated your Constitutional rights. To schedule a free and confidential criminal defense consultation, call our firm at (609) 616-4956.

Police Officer Arresting Young Man

Atlantic City Casino Robbery Report Results in Discovery of Illegal Gun

According to court records, it was roughly 4 a.m. when a man approached the Taj Mahal security desk to report the he had just been the victim of a robbery. The individual stated that he was held at gunpoint, forced to undress in a hotel room, and was relieved of $400 in cash on the 70th floor of the hotel. However, shortly after making this report, the unidentified victim disappeared and did not return to the security station.

An Atlantic City police officer working at the casino responded to the incident believing that a gunman could still be wrecking havoc in the hotel and casino. Based on this fact, the officer testified that he did not think he had sufficient time to travel the 10 to 15 minutes to the building where the surveillance department was located. The officer requested for a special weapons and tactics team to be dispatched and set out to the hotel room.

On his route to the hotel room, the officer received a call from the surveillance team stating that the video showed the apparent victim enter the hotel room with two men and two woman. Shortly thereafter the footage shows the man leaving the room in an apparent panic. The officer testified that at his point he feared that there may have been an injured or deceased person in the room or that something in the room was particularly shocking or dangerous.

When police arrived at the room they found the door slightly ajar. They state they announced themselves, but no one was present to answer. After entering the room, the officers state they found an automatic pistol in an open duffel bag. They also say they found a subpoena from a municipal court and a medical bill – both in the name of the defendant.

What Did the Court Hold Regarding the Search?

Typically, searches conducted by police, government officials, or the agent of a governmental actor must be authorized by a warrant or they are violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Evidence gathered from illegal searches is inadmissible and cannot be used to support or prove a criminal conviction. However, there are certain circumstances where a warrantless search can nevertheless be held to be in accord with the United States Constitution.

One exception to the requirement for police to obtain a warrant before conducting a search is known as exigent circumstances. When exigent circumstances exist, a police officer or other government actor may be authorized to provide emergency-aid despite the lack of a warrant. To show that exigent circumstances exist the prosecution must prove that tree facts are true. First, the prosecution must be able to show that the police officer held an objectively reasonable belief that an emergency situation exists. Second, the prosecution must be able to show that the emergency situation requires immediate attention. Third, it must show a reasonable connection between the emergency situation and the search conducted. Here, the court found that the officer, “could not just ignore the report of an armed robbery because the patron was unavailable for questioning. Officer Armstrong was facing a high-risk, public-safety danger: the prospect of a gunman on the premises.” The NJ Supreme Court found that the appellate and trial courts had incorrectly viewed these events through the lens of hindsight. Rather these matters should be analyzed in light of the facts and circumstances faced by the officer when they make their decision.

police car in side view mirror

Rely on our Criminal Defense Experience

The criminal defense lawyers of the Law Offices of John J. Zarych are dedicating to providing on-point, strategic legal advice when your freedom and reputation are in jeopardy. We analyze all reasonable angles for errors and mistakes made by the police or prosecutors to protect your rights and freedom. We also stay up to date on the latest developments and interpretations of New Jersey and federal criminal law. To schedule a free, private criminal defense consultation call our firm at (609) 616-4956 or contact us online. We have offices in Atlantic City, Cape May, Wildwood, and Northfield.