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Detention Ruled Unlawful Despite Previous Record, New Jersey Criminal Attorneys Report

February 21, 2013 | Posted In Criminal Law - Criminal Law |

An outstanding parole warrant does not excuse a wrongful investigatory detention, according to New Jersey Supreme Court officials in a decision last month. In State v. Shaw, A-38-11, the state Supreme Court ruled that the defendant, Don Shaw, was wrongfully held in police custody, and that the later discovery of a parole violation against him did not mitigate the violation of his rights during the stop. New Jersey criminal attorneys say that the drug charges brought against Shaw as a result of his detention are unconstitutional as well.

Police officers involved in a search for a fugitive fleeing arrest detained Shaw outside an Atlantic City apartment complex, and held him when he refused to give his name. While under police custody, Shaw was searched, and officers discovered 649 individually wrapped packets of heroin hidden in his waistband. Shaw was charged with several drug offenses as a result of the search, and during his arrest, police discovered that he had an outstanding warrant for a parole violation.

New Jersey criminal attorneys representing Shaw argued that the drug charges stemmed from an unconstitutional detainment, and that Shaw’s previous record had nothing to do with the initial stop. He was detained, the lawyers said, because he fit a point of criteria—he and the fugitive in question were both black men—and that racial distinction made Shaw a target despite the fact that he had no other features in common with the wanted man.

The state Supreme Court agreed with Shaw’s New Jersey criminal attorneys, and ruled that the drug charges were based on evidence seized during an unlawful detention. Shaw’s tenuous relationship to the fugitive’s description—that is, his matching racial profile—ruled out any constitutional reason for stopping him, Supreme Court justices said, and the later discovery of the warrant did not change the facts. “The random detention of an individual for the purpose of running a warrant check…cannot be squared with values that inhere in the Fourth Amendment and…our State Constitution,” said Supreme Court justice Barry Albin. The court also dismissed the suggestion that the apartment building Shaw exited was in a high-crime area, ruling that those who live in counties with higher crime rates deserve the same protection under the law, and are not more susceptible to unlawful search and seizure procedures.

Leading New Jersey criminal attorneys say that the Supreme Court ruling in State v. Shaw protects the constitutional rights of all state residents, and at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, we strive to protect these important rights.

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