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Law School Case Brief

State v. Bruns - 172 N.J. 40, 796 A.2d 226 (2002)

Rule:

Even under New Jersey's broad rule of standing for search and seizure purposes, there must be at a minimum some contemporary connection between the defendant and the place searched or the items seized. Suppression of the product of a Fourth Amendment violation can be successfully urged only by those whose rights were violated by the search itself, not by those who are aggrieved solely by the introduction of damaging evidence.

Facts:

Police stopped a driver, Lynette Edwards, for a traffic violation, and then arrested her when they discovered several outstanding warrants. In a search pursuant to that arrest, they discovered and impounded a knife and a toy gun. Later, it was discovered that those items were linked to an armed robbery that occurred a week before the traffic stop, in which John Bruns and Edwards were both implicated.  The Superior Court, Appellate Division (New Jersey), reversed Bruns’ armed robbery conviction on grounds that the evidence used to convict him should have been suppressed. The State appealed from that judgment reversing defendant's armed robbery conviction.

Issue:

Did the intermediate court err in reversing Bruns’ armed robbery conviction on grounds that the evidence used to convict him should have been suppressed?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of New Jersey held that, even though N.J. Const. art. I, para. 7 was interpreted as providing broader standing to challenge warrantless searches than U.S. Const. amend. IV in that instead of having to show a reasonably expectation of privacy, a defendant was required to show only a personal, possessory interest in the items seized, Bruns failed to satisfy even that broad standard. His relationship to the evidence was attenuated in time, because the robbery had occurred a week earlier, and he asserted no ownership interest in the vehicle, which was searched pursuant to a valid arrest. There was no reason to think he had not abandoned whatever ownership interest he once had. The state supreme court reversed the the appellate division's judgment and reinstated Bruns' conviction.

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