Law Offices of Michael T. Nolan, Jr.

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Warrantless Entry of Home Results in Dismissal of Drug Charge

It is well settled law in the State of New Jersey that the police may not enter a private home without a search warrant, unless there exists probable cause to believe that a criminal offense is being committed and exigent circumstances (i.e., emergency situations such as hot pursuit of a fleeing felon) are present.  In State v. Holland, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that both probable cause and exigent circumstances are necessary prerequisites to the warrantless entry of a home by the police, and that minor offenses are insufficient to establish exigent circumstances justifying a warrantless home entry.  This holding by our Supreme Court was grounded principally in the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits motion to suppress .

Michael Nolan, LLC, recently represented an individual charged with possession of illegal drugs (marijuana), who was arrested as a result of a warrantless entry of a private home based upon an alleged noise complaint by a neighbor.  The police knocked on the front door of the home, and were greeted by the homeowner who appeared to be intoxicated and under the legal age to consume alcohol.  The police purportedly overheard noise in the form of voices coming from the back of the house, and then entered the home (supposedly) to obtain everyone's identification.  The officers walked down a hallway and through a couple of rooms before they found a number of young people sitting in the kitchen drinking beer.  One of the officers observed what appeared to be a clear plastic bag of marijuana, and asked the group who it belonged to.  Our client accepted responsibility, and was subsequently arrested for illegal drug possession.

Michael Nolan filed a motion to suppress the marijuana (so that it could no longer be used as evidence), based upon the argument that the police had no right to enter the home under the facts of this case without a search warrant.  We argued that under both Federal and New Jersey law, the officers at best had probable cause to believe that nothing more than a local borough ordinance violation (i.e., underage drinking in a private home) was taking place in the home, and that such a minor offense could not formulate the basis for the "exigent circumstances" requirement necessary to get around obtaining a search warrant.  The need to investigate a noise ordinance and/or underage drinking in a private home, we argued, does not amount to the exigent circumstances justifying entry of a home by the police without a warrant. 

Based upon our efforts, the marijuana charge initially filed against our client was dismissed, and he instead plead guilty to a local noise ordinance violation and received a minimal fine.  No jail, no loss of driving privileges, and perhaps most importantly, no criminal record.

If you find yourself in a situation where you believe your constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure has been violated, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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Law Offices of Michael T. Nolan, Jr.
514 Brick Boulevard, Suite 6
Brick, NJ 08723

Toll Free: 888-415-7141
Phone: 732-965-3342
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