Justice Timpone concluded with the following in relevant part: The tote bag was found in the back seat of a car that had four occupants. They were ordered out of the car. The State simply has not established that the bag was abandoned property. The trespasser exception has even less relevancy.
The record is devoid of any evidence that Shaw put the drugs in the tote bag without Dickerson’s knowledge. Shaw had automatic standing to challenge the search of the bag.
The Court thus considers whether the search fell within the consent-search exception to the warrant requirement. An individual’s voluntary consent to search a constitutionally protected area eliminates the need for law enforcement to obtain a warrant. When Hanson consented to the search, she had already been arrested and handcuffed. The officers asked her multiple times for consent to search the vehicle. She relented only after an officer informed her of Shaw’s unlawfully obtained confession. The warrantless search of the Tahoe was unconstitutional and the evidence seized through that search is therefore subject to suppression. Nor can the evidence come in through Shaw’s confession.
The State failed to make the necessary showing under either inevitable discovery or the independent source exceptions to the exclusionary rule. Accordingly, the unconstitutionally obtained evidence remains suppressed. The judgment of the Appellate Division is affirmed in part and reversed in part and the matter is remanded to the trial court.
Once the New Jersey Supreme court affirmed our state constitutional rule regarding automatic standing and possessory offenses, the prosecution was left to argue that the bag of drugs was “abandoned property.” Here, the Court noted that there was no evidence that Shaw hid his bag of drugs in Dickerson’s bag. Even if he had, the defense could still argue that the property was not “abandoned” in the sense that the owner had no constructive possession via an intention to re-take possession of the property.