NJ Search and Seizure and Bike Riders

In State v Williams, the NJ Appellate Court held that the evidence recovered following an illegal bike chase must be suppressed. In Williams, the defendant was riding his bicycle through a housing complex that was being heavily patrolled by police in an attempt to deter a retaliatory crime against someone in the complex. Upon seeing the officers, the defendant drove his bike quickly in the opposite direction, raising the suspicions of the police. The testimony at trial by the officers established that there was no other basis for apprehending the defendant, who discarded a small package of drugs during the four or five second encounter. The court, consistent with prior decisions, held that flight alone does not form the basis or meet the threshold requirements for an investigatory stop. The police had gone beyond mere questioning and the defendant was seized in a legal sense. This situation is different from simple police inquiry. If the police had been asking him questions and he ran, the outcome may have been different. Additionally, there may have been an independent basis for the arrest if the cops had recovered the evidence after the initial event had either terminated or if the recovery was sufficiently attenuated. This case lined up nicely for the defense, but police are typically a little more careful to establish a reasonable basis for their actions. Nonetheless, this is case law that a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer can use as a suppression issue.


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