Officer’s Demand for Identification from an Unlicensed Passenger in a Motor Vehicle Stop Deemed Improper
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Officer’s Demand for Identification from an Unlicensed Passenger in a Motor Vehicle Stop Deemed Improper

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

The Appellate Division issued an opinion on September 16, 2021 in State v. Boston where the court outlines the level of inquiry that a police officer may make of passengers during a motor vehicle stop and who are not the focus of any wrongdoing at the time.  In State v. Boston, there was a proper motor vehicle stop which led to the arrest of the driver due to an active warrant.  An adult passenger that was in the vehicle told the police that he did not have a driver’s license.  The police then demanded to see any identification that the passenger possessed and which was a State issued identification card.  The officer then ran a check on that identification card and determined that the passenger also had an active warrant.  The passenger was then arrested and a subsequent search of his person resulted in the discovery of CDS and for which he was charged with possession with intent to distribute.

On review, the court ruled that in a routine traffic stop where the driver has to be arrested on an open warrant, the officer’s inquiring of a passenger as to whether or not they had a driver’s license is reasonable. However, once the officer learned that passenger did not possess a driver’s license, their further demand for identification from that passenger absent some particularized suspicion, was unlawful.  As such, the arrest and subsequent search of his person were all deemed inappropriate resulting in same bring barred based upon the 5th Amendment and the doctrine of the fruit of the poisonous tree. The drugs that were seized should have been excluded at trial.  His conviction for the third-degree possession of CDS was reversed.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding a police investigation, an interrogation or the search of your person or your property, please do not hesitate to contact us.