This appeal from a criminal conviction concerns the legality of a warrantless search of the Defendant’s vehicle by police after a motor vehicle stop in a “high drug area” in Trenton. Police officers’ SUV approached an intersection directly behind a Ford Taurus signaling a left turn. When the traffic light turned green, the Taurus slowly turned left and the detectives followed, activating the emergency lights and sirens because the windows of the Taurus appeared to be illegally tinted. The resulting search uncovered a loaded handgun and hollow point bullets inside the vehicle between the driver's seat and the center console.

As amicus, the ACLU NJ argued that stops based on rear tinted windows—while not prohibited in New Jersey—have become a useful tool for justifying arbitrary stops and searches in the state, actions that invade every New Jerseyan’s right to privacy and right to be free from unreasonable searches. ACLU NJ also noted that the use of pretextual stops like those based on tinted windows generally cause harm, in greatly varying degrees, to both law enforcement and to Black and Brown communities across the state by creating a sense of danger through criminalizing the use of window tint even when it doesn’t threaten public safety or prevent law enforcement from seeing inside a car.

Date filed

March 15, 2022


New Jersey Supreme Court