Police Can Search Your Car Without a Warrant…Again.

No Warrant Required

Today, the New Jersey Supreme Court just reversed its position on the Warrant Requirement for searches of motor vehicles. NJ Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that police must obtain a warrant to search a motor vehicle, unless exigent circumstances were present. State v Pena Flores (2009).

This morning they decided in State v Witt, that the exigent circumstances standard set forth in Pena-Flores was unsound in principle and unworkable in practice to obtain warrants. They ruled that: The Automobile Exception authorizes the warrantless search of an automobile only when the police have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband or evidence of an offense and the circumstances giving rise to probable cause are unforeseeable and spontaneous.

The Pena-Flores rule basically required police to request consent to search the vehicle from the owner/operator of the vehicle if probable cause was present, and if denied, they could apply for a telephonic warrant to search the vehicle.  Consent is no longer required.