State v. Hyman

As a friend of the court, the ACLU-NJ participated in this case about the boundaries of the probable cause requirement for a warrant to search a home. Police officers observed Mr. Hyman engage in drug dealing at a codefendant’s apartment in Morristown, and, on that fact alone, secured a warrant to search Mr. Hyman’s home in Newark. The State contended that it is reasonable to infer that a person involved in drug dealing will keep evidence of that activity where he lives. But that generic inference, the ACLU-NJ argued, does not amount to probable cause. Probable cause to search a certain location must be rooted in a factual nexus between the evidence sought and the place to be searched. Here, the State asked the Court to accept a generalization – that drug dealers keep evidence of their illegal activities in their homes – in place of a particularized, factual nexus between Mr. Hyman’s home and his alleged drug dealing. In effect, the State proposed a categorical rule that probable cause to search a person’s home attaches whenever a judge is satisfied that the person is probably a drug dealer.

The Constitution’s protections are at their pinnacle inside the home. The ACLU-NJ urged the Court to affirm the Appellate Division’s decision finding that the State had not established probable cause for a warrant to search Mr. Hyman’s home.

Status

Oral argument was held on February 26, 2019. On March 5, 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court determined that certification was improvidently granted and dismissed the State’s appeal, leaving in place the Appellate Division decision favorable to Mr. Hyman.

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