NJ DWI-Drug DUI Defense News: Court Throws Out Cocaine Evidence due to Illegal Search

As a New Jersey DWI defense attorney, my job is to provide motorists accused of drunk driving or drug DUI an aggressive defense against the charges. Taking into account that the state’s case usually hangs on the strength of the evidence presented at trial, this evidence must not be tainted in any way for the prosecution to have a chance of conviction in instances of driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs.

As a former municipal prosecutor myself, I know first-hand how important it is that police follow proper procedures when collecting evidence against an individual. If not done correctly, as a drunk driving defense lawyer, I know that opportunities exist to have the such evidence ruled as inadmissible by the court. A recent decision by the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division (STATE v. MANSOORY) overturned an earlier conviction based on the manner in which drug evidence was collected from a defendant’s vehicle at the time of the arrest.

Leading up to the original case against Darius S. Masoory, which was tried in Cape May County, the defendant was arrested on charges of possession of cocaine after a search of the defendant’s impounded vehicle, following his arrest on suspicion of drunk driving at a ferry terminal operated by the Delaware River Bay Authority (DRBA).

The search of the vehicle occurred because the defendant’s friend was unable to drive the vehicle home, and therefore impound procedures require DRPA officers to inventory the contents of any legally impounded vehicle. In the curse of the inventory procedure, the officer found the wallet in the driver’s side door.

The officer also inventoried the contents of the wallet, according to court records. During the inventory he found three folded white pieces of paper with white powder which was later tested and confirmed to be cocaine. The defendant’s lawyer moved to suppress that evidence on the grounds of illegal search and seizure.

Although the court agreed that the DRBA officer had followed protocol, it agreed with the defendant and threw out the cocaine evidence. The judge in the case stated that if the officer was suspicious that the folded papers contained illegal drugs or drug paraphenalia, he should have obtained a search warrant to search the contents of the papers.

In unfolding and looking at the contents of the folder papers, the court said that the officer went beyond the permissible scope of an inventory search because he was no longer looking for items of value for purposes of safekeeping. The court thereupon granted defendant’s motion to suppress the cocaine found within the folded pieces of papers.

According official records, when the State appealed the lower court’s decision, the New Jersey appellate court agreed with the lower court and denied the State’s appeal.