Dec 052009
 December 5, 2009  Posted by  Court, Surveillance

Michael Booth writes:

A case heard by the New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday may clarify whether a passenger who doesn’t claim his luggage can assert a Fourth Amendment right against search and seizure of its contents.

It’s a question that surprisingly has not yet been answered with a high court ruling, despite the frequency with which situations like the one in this case arise.

When Pablo Carvajal got off a bus from Miami in Union City, N.J., he ran into local police who had been tipped that a man matching his description would be carrying a suitcase filled with drugs. Carvajal denied having any luggage, but after the other passengers claimed their own and left, all that remained was a black duffle bag. A drug-sniffing dog reacted positively after smelling it. Without a warrant, the police opened it and found needles, prescription narcotics and a large quantity of heroin.

Carvajal then confessed the bag was his and was arrested, but he moved to suppress the evidence as the product of a nonconsensual, warrantless search.

Read more about the case and the oral arguments on

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