The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey filed a lawsuit on July 10, 2007, on behalf of Willie Nevius, an African American driver who was improperly stopped and searched on the New Jersey Turnpike in Mercer County. On the afternoon of December 9, 2006, the driver, a resident of North Carolina, was stopped by the New Jersey State Police on the New Jersey Turnpike for allegedly having a broken tail light. The driver was prohibited from viewing the light, which he knew was working. The troopers then proceeded to question the driver about matters unrelated to the stop and without any articulable suspicion asked to search the vehicle. The troopers went on to tear apart the carpeting and interior of the vehicle, rifle through his possessions which were left strewn about the vehicle. Throughout the duration of the search the troopers repeatedly ignored the driver ˙s requests to stop the search. The search ultimately failed to reveal contraband or evidence of any crime. After the search, the driver checked the rear of his vehicle and saw that both tail lights were fully functional. When he mentioned this to the trooper, the trooper responded by laughing. He then issued the driver a "warning" ticket for the alleged inoperative tail light. The ACLU-NJ lawsuit challenged the stop itself, as well as other factors in the stop, including the alleged consent to search, the officers refusal to stop searching when the plaintiff requested them to, and the administration of the search. The claims were based on the rights of all people to equal treatment and to be free from unreasonable searches by the police under the state and federal constitution, as well as rights guaranteed by the New Jersey Law against Discrimination and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act. In late May 2009 a Mercer County Superior Court judge granted Summary Judgment to the New Jersey State Police.
- Nevius: Complaint (42 KB pdf)