The ACLU-NJ filed an amicus brief in support of a Petition for Certification in a particularly disturbing case about the difference between so-called field inquiries (which require no level of suspicion) and investigative detentions (which require reasonable articulable suspicion). The difference between these encounters turns on whether a reasonable person would feel free to leave. A person might not feel free to leave based on the words (e.g. “stop, police”), actions (e.g. placing hands on shoulder, blocking in car), or even tone (accusatory questions) of police. But in this case, the Appellate Division turned that analysis on its head suggesting that “defendant stopped when [the officer] ‘informed’ him to stop.” The court put the burden on the defendant to show “he had an objectively reasonable belief that he was not free to ignore [the officer’s] request to stop.” This dangerously flips the burden to defendants.
On February 8, 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court granted certification. The ACLU-NJ will participate before the Court.