Justice Fernandez-Vina continued in relevant part: The trial court denied defendants’ motions to suppress the evidence. Chisum pled guilty to one weapons charge; Woodard pled guilty to one weapons offense and to a drug possession offense arising from an unrelated indictment. The Appellate Division panel affirmed. The Court granted defendants’ petitions for certification “limited to the issues of whether the police were authorized to detain the defendants and to conduct pat-down searches for weapons.” 232 N.J. 88 (2018).
Once the renter of the motel room lowered the volume of the music and the police declined to issue summonses, the police no longer had any reasonable suspicion that would justify the continued detention of the room’s occupants. Once the noise was abated, the police no longer had an independent basis to detain the occupants, or a basis to run warrant checks on them. Such action was unlawful. And because the detention and warrant checks were unlawful, the subsequent pat-down of Woodard was also improper. The judgment of the Appellate Division is therefore reversed, and the matter is remanded to the trial court for the withdrawal of defendants’ guilty pleas and further proceedings.
Warrantless searches and seizures are presumptively invalid as contrary to the United States and the New Jersey Constitutions, and the State bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a warrantless search or seizure falls within one of the few well-delineated exceptions to the warrant requirement. One such exception is an investigatory stop of a person. An investigative detention, also called a Terry stop, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), or an investigatory stop, occurs during a police encounter when an objectively reasonable person would feel that his or her right to move has been restricted. An investigative detention that is premised on less than reasonable and articulable suspicion is an unlawful seizure, and evidence discovered during the course of an unconstitutional detention is subject to the exclusionary rule.
The police usually cover their bases incases like this by testifying that furtive movements gave them reasonable suspicion to believe to believe that an individual was armed. Here, they were either honest and/or did not think such testimony was necessary to satisfy the reasonable suspicion standard.