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Sunday, June 16, 2013

The community-caretaking doctrine is not a justification for the warrantless entry and search of a home in the absence of some form of an objectively reasonable emergency.

State v. Cesar Albert Vargas (A-56-11) (069449)
Argued November 5, 2012 -- Decided March 18, 2013
ALBIN, J., writing for a majority of the Court.
In this appeal, the Court must decide whether, consistent with the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution, the community-caretaking doctrine authorizes the police to conduct a warrantless entry and search of a home to check on the welfare of a resident in the absence of the resident’s consent or an objectively reasonable basis to believe that there is an emergency.
2 Olaya called 9-1-1 and three Vineland police officers were dispatched to the address for a “welfare check.” The officers observed that Vargas’s mailbox was full, his Jaguar was covered in dust, and the car’s tires were deflated. No one answered when the officers knocked on Vargas’s door. The officers contacted dispatch and confirmed that no “calls for service” – such as a call for an ambulance or the police – had come from or been directed to Vargas’s apartment. The officers ultimately entered Vargas’s apartment because they said they “had reasons to fear for his safety.” They found no one home and no signs of foul play. In the living room they saw a six-to-eight-inch jar containing what appeared to be marijuana. Olaya opened kitchen cabinets and drawers and found what “appeared to be two canning jars full of marijuana.” A warrant was then secured to search the apartment.
Vargas was indicted for various crimes involving money laundering, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, unlawful possession of firearms, and other offenses. Vargas moved to suppress the evidence on the ground that the police entered and searched his apartment in violation of the warrant requirement. The trial court agreed and suppressed all evidence seized. The court specifically rejected the State’s argument that the community-caretaking doctrine justified the warrantless search, finding that there was no objectively reasonable basis to believe that Vargas’s life or well-being, or the community’s safety was in jeopardy. The trial court determined that there were no “exigent circumstances” to justify the warrantless search of Vargas’s home.
In an unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division reversed, holding that the warrantless search conformed to the community-caretaking doctrine, which it found had been extended to home searches, and that the search was based on “a legitimate concern for [Vargas’s] welfare.” The Supreme Court granted defendant’s motion for leave to appeal. 209 N.J. 99 (2012).
HELD: The community-caretaking doctrine is not a justification for the warrantless entry and search of a home in the absence of some form of an objectively reasonable emergency.
1. “The right of the people to be secure in their . . . houses . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures” is an essential guarantee of both the Fourth Amendment and the State Constitution. The warrant requirement protects an individual in his home from official intrusion whether the purpose of the search is to further a criminal investigation or the government’s enforcement of an administrative regulation. Because a warrantless search of a home is presumptively invalid, the State bears the burden of establishing that such a search falls within one of the few “‘well-delineated exceptions’ to the warrant requirement.” State v. Frankel, 179 N.J. 586, 598 (1978). (pp. 9-15)
2. Courts consider Cady v. Dombrowski to be the origin of the community-caretaking doctrine as an exception to the warrant requirement. 413 U.S. 433, 441 (1973). Although the Supreme Court in Cady recognized law enforcement’s “community caretaking functions” in the context of an automobile search, it never suggested that community-caretaking responsibilities constituted a wholly new exception to the warrant requirement that would justify the warrantless search of a home. Indeed, the Cady Court distinguished between automobile and home searches. The United States Supreme Court has not referenced “community caretaking functions” as an exception to the warrant requirement outside of an automobile search. The United States Supreme Court has never spoken of a community-caretaking exception to the warrant requirement that would allow the warrantless entry of a home absent some exigency. (pp. 15-20)
3. At first, the New Jersey Supreme Court narrowly construed Cady. In one case, the Court concluded that although the police were acting in a community-caretaking role in Cady, the validity of the warrantless search there was saved by exigent circumstances. In another, the Court specifically found that the community-caretaking doctrine could not be invoked to justify the warrantless entry into a private residence. Since then, the Court has applied the community-caretaking doctrine outside of the automobile-impoundment context. But when it has done so to justify a warrantless entry or search, the factual scenarios involved exigent circumstances – circumstances requiring immediate police action. Without the presence of consent or some species of exigent circumstances, the community-caretaking doctrine is not a basis for the warrantless entry into and search of a home. (pp. 21-26)
4. The United States Courts of Appeals have split on whether the community-caretaking doctrine can justify a warrantless search of a home, but no circuit court suggests that the warrantless entry of a home is permissible in the absence of some form of exigency. The present case comes before the Supreme Court because New Jersey case law has blurred the distinction between the community-caretaking and emergency-aid doctrines. In performing community-caretaking tasks, police officers must comply with the dictates of the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Paragraph 7 of the State Constitution. However, in carrying out their community-caretaking responsibilities, police officers may not have time to secure “a warrant when emergent circumstances arise and an immediate search is required to preserve life or property.”State v. Edmonds211 N.J. 117, 141 (2012). In such circumstances, a warrant is not required to conduct a search. (p. 26-31)
5. Under this State’s jurisprudence – outside of the car-impoundment context – warrantless searches justified in the name of the community-caretaking doctrine have involved some form of exigent or emergent circumstances. In this case, the trial court applied the correct legal standard and sufficient credible evidence in the record supports its decision. The police did not have an objectively reasonable basis to believe that an emergency threatening life or limb justified the warrantless entry into Vargas’s apartment. The Appellate Division erred by concluding that the community-caretaking doctrine justified the warrantless search of Vargas’s home, even in the absence of a “compelling need for immediate action.” The seizure of evidence from Vargas’s home violated the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Paragraph 7 of the State’s Constitution and must be suppressed. (pp. 31-37)
The judgment of the Appellate Division is REVERSED and the matter is REMANDED to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Police seeing defendant smoking joint in open door justified the warrantless entry into defendant’s apartment and the seizure of the marijuana cigarette.

State v. Walker  (A-49-11) 
 Decided April 10, 2013
RODRÍGUEZ, P.J.A.D. (temporarily assigned), writing for a unanimous Court.
In this appeal, the Court considers the warrantless entry into defendant Rashad Walker’s apartment and whether police officers, who saw defendant smoking a marijuana cigarette during a brief interaction with him, had probable cause to arrest the defendant and seize evidence observed in plain view inside his apartment.
On March 29, 2008, acting on a tip from a reliable confidential informant that an African-American male was selling controlled dangerous substances (CDS) from an apartment in a Newark public housing project, Detective James Cosgrove and fellow undercover officers went to defendant’s apartment. The officers intended to buy CDS from defendant in order to corroborate the tip. Officer James Rios, who served as the buyer, knocked at the apartment door. An African-American man, later identified as defendant, answered it. He was smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. Cosgrove immediately recognized the burning smell of marijuana. When defendant saw that one of the officers had a police badge around his neck, he threw the cigarette into his apartment, retreated, and attempted to slam the door shut. Rios stopped the door from closing, followed defendant into the apartment, and arrested him. According to Cosgrove, he and three officers entered the apartment to prevent defendant from fleeing, destroying evidence, retrieving a weapon, or in some other way impeding his arrest for possession of marijuana. In plain view in the living room, the officers saw a plastic bag containing marijuana, envelopes of heroin stamped “Horsepower,” a plastic bag containing cocaine, a marijuana cigarette, a dark-colored plate with cocaine residue on it, a razor blade, and a digital scale.
Defendant sought to suppress evidence. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that probable cause to arrest defendant arose at the moment defendant opened the door smoking a marijuana cigarette, a disorderly persons offense. Defendant then entered a guilty plea to two counts of third-degree possession of CDS with intent to distribute and one count of third-degree possession of CDS with intent to distribute within 500 feet of public housing. The judge imposed three six-year terms, subject to a three-year period of parole ineligibility, to be served concurrently. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress and his sentence. The Appellate Division reversed the denial of defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that, as a matter of law, the circumstances did not provide a sufficient basis for the officers’ entry into defendant’s home. The Appellate Division vacated defendant’s conviction and remanded the matter to the Law Division.
The Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for certification.
HELD: Under the New Jersey and federal constitutions, probable cause and exigent circumstances justified the warrantless entry into defendant’s apartment and the seizure of the marijuana cigarette and all the CDS found there.
1. The warrant requirement is strictly applied to physical entry into a home because the primary goal of theFourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution is to protect individuals from unreasonable home intrusions. Accordingly, a warrantless arrest in an individual’s home is
“ ‘presumptively unreasonable.’ ” State v. Hutchins, 116 N.J. 457, 463 (1989) (quoting Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 586 (1980)). Nonetheless, the Court has “adopted the principle that ‘exigent circumstances’ in conjunction with probable cause may excuse police from compliance with the warrant requirement.” State v. Bolte, 115 N.J. 579, 585-86 (1989). The Court must determine whether information provided by the confidential source, standing alone, is sufficient to establish probable cause. If not, the Court must determine whether the independent observations made by the police officers upon their arrival at defendant’s apartment, together with the informant’s information, give rise to probable cause. The mere fact that the informant was reliable in the past cannot itself establish probable cause. In this case, the informant’s tip lacked the requisite basis of knowledge to provide
probable cause to believe defendant possessed CDS with intent to distribute. Nevertheless, the officers observed defendant smoking a marijuana cigarette in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(4) in their presence. At that point, the officers had probable cause to arrest defendant. But despite the existence of probable cause to arrest defendant, a showing of exigent circumstances was required in order to comply with the Fourth Amendment. In making the exigent circumstances determination, courts consider many factors, including the gravity of the underlying offense for which the arrest is being made and the reasonable belief that evidence might be lost or destroyed. Therefore, in order to justify the officers’ warrantless home arrest here, the State must establish: (1) the existence of exigent circumstances, and (2) that those exigent circumstances were not police-created. (pp. 7-17)
2. Although the information contained in the tip was uncorroborated, by the time the officers knocked at the door of defendant’s apartment, subsequent events, created by defendant’s own actions, established probable cause and exigent circumstances which justified an entry into defendant’s apartment. Thus, the warrantless seizure of the marijuana cigarette and all the CDS found in defendant’s apartment was proper and permissible under the New Jersey and federal constitutions. Although the underlying offense here, possession of marijuana, is a disorderly persons offense, the circumstances indicate that the officers’ warrantless entry into defendant’s home was objectively reasonable. A limited entry was necessary to arrest defendant for the disorderly persons offense and to retrieve the marijuana cigarette. After entering, the officers saw in the living room CDS and other contraband in plain view. These items were subject to seizure as well. (pp. 17-22)
The judgment of the Appellate Division is REVERSED, defendant’s conviction is REINSTATED, and the matter is REMANDED to the Appellate Division for consideration of the sentencing argument raised by defendant.

the sixteen-month delay between the remand of the driving-while-intoxicated charge to the municipal court and the notice of trial deprived defendant Michael Cahill of his right to a speedy trial and the charge must be dismissed.

State v. Michael Cahill (A-47-11) (068727)
 Decided April 1, 2013
The Court considers whether defendant Michael Cahill’s right to a speedy trial was violated, thereby requiring the dismissal the motor vehicle charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI).
Sixteen months later, on March 17, 2010, Cahill received a letter from the municipal court stating that the motor vehicle tickets were listed for trial in April. Cahill’s attorney promptly filed a motion to dismiss the charges claiming that the delay denied Cahill his right to a speedy trial. Cahill argued that the delay, whether calculated from the date of arrest (twenty-nine months) or the date of sentence on the indictable offense (sixteen months), was egregious. Although Cahill did not claim that his ability to defend the charges was prejudiced, he explained that the anticipated loss of his driver’s license caused him to limit his employment searches to short-term positions or positions in locations that did not require him to drive to work, and that he had surrendered a job offer that would have required him to drive. He also asserted that he eventually altered his search to seek a permanent position because he believed the prosecutor had abandoned the charges. Once he received the trial notice, he returned to seeking short-term jobs with lower wages. The State responded that the delay was not uncommon for DWI cases, and the municipal prosecutor argued that he had no record of a demand from Cahill to set a trial date and that Cahill had retained his driving privileges. The municipal judge denied the motion, finding the delay lengthy but not as lengthy as in other cases. Although the judge considered the delay unexplained and attributed it to the negligence of personnel, he found Cahill’s assertions of prejudice unsupported by evidence and declined to give weight to his claims of anxiety. Cahill entered a conditional plea to the charge of DWI. His driver’s license was suspended for one year and he was ordered to attend the Intoxicated Driver Resource Program.
Cahill filed an appeal in the Law Division. The Law Division judge reversed the decision and vacated the guilty plea and DWI sentence based on the four-factor test identified by the United States Supreme Court inBarker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972). The court measured the delay from the sentencing date on the indictable offense to the date Cahill received the notice of trial in the municipal court (sixteen months) and found it excessive based, in part, on a 1984 Directive by Chief Justice Wilentz that established sixty days as the recommended maximum period for the disposition of a DWI charge. The court held that prejudice can be found from employment interruptions, anxiety, financial drain, and other circumstances, and it accepted Cahill’s claim that the delay caused him anxiety and financial harm. Finally, the court found that it would be counterproductive to expose Cahill to additional sanctions because he had satisfied the requirements of the sentence imposed in 2008. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that the Law Division judge properly analyzed and applied the Barker factors. The Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for certification. 208 N.J. 601 (2011).
HELD: Applying the four-factor analysis set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Barker v. Wingo, the sixteen-month delay between the remand of the driving-while-intoxicated charge to the municipal court and the notice of trial deprived defendant Michael Cahill of his right to a speedy trial and the charge must be dismissed.
1. In 1967, the United States Supreme Court held that the right to a speedy trial, guaranteed by the United States Constitution, was a fundamental right applied to the states by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1972, in Barker, the United States Supreme Court established a four-factor balancing test to evaluate claims of speedy trial violations. It directed courts to consider the length of the delay, reason for the delay, assertion of the right by a defendant, and prejudice to the defendant. The Court declined to identify a deadline after which a charge would be subject to dismissal. It also did not require that a defendant demand a speedy trial or waive the right. Instead, the Court directed a case-by-case application of the four factors. With regard to the first factor, the Court held that a delay may be presumptively prejudicial and thereby trigger consideration of the other factors. The length of the delay that may be considered presumptively prejudicial depends on the circumstances of the case, including the nature of the charged offense. Once a defendant asserts a violation of the right to a speedy trial, the government is required to identify the reason for the delay. In assessing prejudice, the interests being protected are the prevention of oppressive incarceration, minimization of anxiety attributable to the unresolved charge, and limitation of the possibility of impairment of the defense. All factors are related, requiring a balancing. (pp. 11-16)
2. The right to a speedy trial extends to quasi-criminal matters pending in the municipal courts, including DWI charges. In addition to the Barker analysis, this Court has adopted various rules and directives governing prompt disposition, but it has declined to set a deadline after which the charges must be dismissed. Even the sixty-day period announced in 1984, and relied on by the Law Division judge in this case, was described as a goal rather than a bright-line rule. The Court reaffirms its adherence to the four-factor Barker analysis, recognizing that the facts of an individual case are the best indicators of whether a right to speedy trial has been violated. (pp. 16-24)
3. Cahill was charged with an indictable offense arising out of the October 27, 2007 incident. Because prosecution of the DWI charge prior to resolution of the indictable offense could have resulted in double jeopardy and the dismissal of the more serious charge, the State moved promptly. Cahill pled guilty to the indictable offense on September 19, 2008, and the court imposed sentence on November 14, 2008. The eleven-and-one-half-month gap between the initial charge and disposition of the indictable offense was reasonable. However, sixteen months elapsed between remand of the DWI charge to the municipal court and the time Cahill received notice of the first trial date, which is long enough to trigger consideration of the remaining Barker factors. The DWI charge was a straightforward quasi-criminal offense with uncomplicated legal issues and no witness-availability problems and the State offered no explanation for the delay—two factors that weigh against the State. Cahill did not take any action to trigger a trial after the remand, but a defendant does not have an obligation to bring himself to trial and Cahill promptly filed a motion after receipt of the trial notice. Although failure to assert the speedy trial right is a factor that must be considered, it does not counterbalance the lengthy and unexplained delay in this case. Finally, Cahill limited his employment options in anticipation of prosecution, and any person would experience anxiety from the existence of a pending and long-unresolved charge, particularly one that would have a dramatic effect on daily activities and the ability to earn a living. After balancing the factors, the Court concludes that the extensive and unexplained delay, coupled with the generalized anxiety and personal prejudice occasioned by the protracted resolution of this matter, violated Cahill’s right to a speedy trial. (pp. 24-29)
4. Administrative Directive #04-11, adopted in 2011, requires that the Superior Court dispose of all parts of a case before it, including municipal court matters, unless there is a compelling reason otherwise. Although there will be instances that require motor vehicle charges to be resolved separately, the Court declines to adopt a try-or-miss rule. It also cautions that a judge applying the Barker analysis must take into account the effects of the State v. Chun order addressing the scientific reliability of the Alcotest. (pp. 29-31)
5. On balance, the factors fall in favor of Cahill’s claim that, in this case, the delay deprived him of his constitutionally-guaranteed right to a speedy trial. (pp. 31-33)
The judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED.

The investigation of a home based on dog sniff was an illegal “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

The investigation of a home based on dog sniff was an illegal “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

certiorari to the supreme court of florida

No. 11–564. Argued October 31, 2012—Decided March 26, 2013

Police took a drug-sniffing dog to Jardines’ front porch, where the dog gave a positive alert for narcotics. Based on the alert, the officers obtained a warrant for a search, which revealed marijuana plants; Jardines was charged with trafficking in cannabis. The Supreme Court of Florida approved the trial court’s decision to suppress the evidence, holding that the officers had engaged in a Fourth Amendment search unsupported by probable cause.
Held: The investigation of Jardines’ home based on dog sniff was an illegal “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 3–10.
(a) When “the Government obtains information by physically intruding” on persons, houses, papers, or effects, “a ‘search’ within the original meaning of the Fourth Amendment” has “undoubtedly occurred.” United States v. Jones, 565 U. S. ___, ___, n. 3. Pp. 3–4.
(b) At the Fourth Amendment’s “very core” stands “the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreason-able governmental intrusion.” Silverman v. United States, 365 U. S. 505. The area “immediately surrounding and associated with the home”—the curtilage—is “part of the home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes.” Oliver v. United States, 466 U. S. 170. The officers entered the curtilage here: The front porch is the classic exemplar of an area “to which the activity of home life extends.” Id., at 182, n. 12. Pp. 4–5.
(c) The officers’ entry was not explicitly or implicitly invited. Offi-cers need not “shield their eyes” when passing by a home “on public thoroughfares,” California v. Ciraolo, 476 U. S. 207, but “no man can set his foot upon his neighbour’s close without his leave,” Entick v. Carrington, 2 Wils. K. B. 275, 291, 95 Eng. Rep. 807, 817. A police officer not armed with a warrant may approach a home in hopes of speaking to its occupants, because that is “no more than any private citizen might do.” Kentucky v. King, 563 U. S. ___, ___. But the scope of a license is limited not only to a particular area but also to a specific purpose, and there is no customary invitation to enter the curtilage simply to conduct a search. Pp. 5–8.
(d) It is unnecessary to decide whether the officers violated Jardines’ expectation of privacy under Katz v. United States, 389 U. S. 347. Pp. 8–10.
73 So. 3d 34, affirmed.
Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Kagan, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Ginsburg and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy and Breyer, JJ., joined.