Officer Jurisdictions for Traffic Stops

by | Jun 13, 2016 | Blog, Criminal Law, Traffic Stops

Traffic Stop Criminal AttorneyNormally, police officers do not make traffic stops outside of their designated municipality unless the active pursuit began in the officer’s jurisdiction.  For instance, you would not expect a Brick Township police officer to conduct a traffic stop in Toms River and vice versa.   However, there was a case in New Jersey that took place in 1975 that allows officers outside of the municipality to conduct a traffic stop pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:5—3. Here are the specifics of the case:

“On June 11, 1975, at about 2:30 a.m., Patrolman Whitney of the Montvale Police Department radioed the Park Ridge Police Department that a van with its lights off was parked on the side of the road near the intersection of Pascack Road and Grand Avenue in Park Ridge. Patrolman Whitney observed the vehicle while on routine patrol of Grand Avenue in Montvale. Grand Avenue is an east-west road which forms the common boundary between the Bergen County municipalities of Park Ridge and Montvale. The north side of the road is in Montvale and the south side in Park Ridge. Patrolman Ruth of the Park Ridge Police Department responded to the said intersection but the vehicle had already departed. Seeing nothing to the east on Grand Avenue, Patrolman Ruth turned west onto Grand Avenue in Montvale. He soon spotted the van in question and observed someone throw a beer bottle from the passenger side of the vehicle. Patrolman Ruth then ordered the vehicle to stop.”

In this case, the Park Ridge officer conducted the traffic stop in Montvale.  When the case was brought to court and the defendant was facing DUI charges, the defense argued that the case should be dismissed due to the fact that the traffic stop was conducted by an officer outside of his jurisdiction.  The court responded by stating:

“In the absence of statutory permission, a peace officer when making an arrest within the State, has authority to make an arrest only within the confines of the geographical unit of which he is an officer, except when he is in fresh pursuit of a person. N.J.S.A. 40A:14–152; State v. McCarthy, supra 123 N.J.Super. at 517, 303 A.2d 626; 6 A C.J.S. Arrest § 53b at 125, and N.J.S.A. 2A:156–1 Et seq. Likewise, ordinarily a municipal court only has territorial jurisdiction over the territory embraced within such municipality, ‘and any premises or property situated or located partly within the partly without such municipality’ N.J.S.A. 2A:8–20. However, N.J.S.A. 39:5–3 further expands the jurisdiction of a municipal court, providing that:

When a person has violated a provision of this subtitle (Title 39 Motor Vehicles & Traffic Regulations) all proceedings shall be brought before a magistrate having jurisdiction in the municipality in which it is alleged that the violation occurred But when a violation occurs on a street through which the boundary line of 2 or more municipalities runs or crosses, then the proceeding may be brought before the magistrate having jurisdiction in any 1 of the municipalities divided by said boundary line.”

In conclusion, the Court held that the officer from Park Ridge was justified in conducting the traffic stop in the neighboring. This was  due to the fact that any violation would be a technical one that did not infringe on the motorist’s constitutional rights. Moreover,  the traffic stop was made on a street that ran through the two municipalities at issue, Park Ridge and Montvale.