The New Jersey Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the state’s heightened caution standards. That standard was set in 1994 in State v. Smith, and it allows officers, in certain traffic stops, to employ greater caution than is routinely called for.
Heightened Caution: The Details
The standard for heightened caution as it applies to vehicle stops can be broken down into several major sections:
- The vehicle stop must be lawful and must be predicated upon a reasonable and articulable suspicion that an offense – of any caliber, including minor traffic violations – took place.
- While the United States Supreme Court finds it reasonable for officers to order a driver out of a car in a traffic stop, the New Jersey Supreme Court only extends this rule to passengers in the car if the officers have specific and articulable facts that would warrant heightened caution.
- Actions such as sneaky movements made by a passenger can be enough to provoke the need for heightened caution.
Heightened Caution and Drug Charges
Drug charges are often precipitated by vehicle stops, and heightened caution can play a significant role in these charges. And since any vehicle or traffic offense – including a broken blinker, failure to use a seatbelt, or even a dirty license plate – can lead to a traffic stop, the bar for using heightened caution in New Jersey is set very low.
What You Need to Know
It’s imperative that you always cooperate with the police, but it is not necessary for you to volunteer anything beyond what is required of you. If you are pulled over by officers in a traffic stop, it behooves you and your passengers to stop moving around in your car – any sneaky movements on your parts can lead to heightened caution on theirs. Additionally, although you must cooperate with the officers, you should never voluntarily allow them to search your car and you should not make a statement. Such actions will almost always hurt your case – often in surprising ways. If you are involved in a traffic stop that leads to a drug charge, it’s no time to take matters into your own hands; invoke your right to legal counsel.
If You’re Facing a Drug Charge in New Jersey, call 732-238-8686 Today for More Information
If you or someone you care about is facing a drug charge, David C. Barry, Attorney at Law, can help. Attorney Mr. Barry knows that the stakes are too high to be left to chance, and he strongly recommends that you retain a lawyer with experience in defending drug charges. David will fight for your rights and your dignity. If you need legal guidance and would like to discuss your case, call David today at 732-238-8686.