Jun 22

Privacy Rights In Stolen Vehicle?

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In State v. Taylor, the police stopped a vehicle which was later determined to be stolen. Thereupon, police search the vehicle and discovered two handguns, and later a gun magazine. Defendants filed a motion to suppress which was denied. Citing State v. Lugo, the court found there was no reasonable expectation of privacy as they were occupants of a stolen vehicle. On appeal, the argument was made that the lower court erred in concluding that an occupant of a stolen car had no expecttion of privacy even if he did not know the car was stolen and he reasonably believed that the driver was in lawful possession.

The Appellate Division said that for fourth Amendment purposes, a court had to make a two step inquiry. First, had the individual manifested a subjective expectation of privacy in the object searched? Second, was society willing to recognize that expectation as reasonable? Interestingly, the Court refused to adopt a bright line rule that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy as argued by the State. The New Jersey Constitutional standard only requires that an expectation of privacy be reasonable. So whether the Defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car required a fact-sensitive inquiry.

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