Skip to main content
Learning Center

Consent Searches in the Scope of Domestic Violence Investigations: Know Your Rights

Jeremy Lackey & Derek Miller outside Federal Courthouse
Free Consultations
Take the first step to protect your future.

On May 3, 2023, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued an important ruling upholding a person’s right to privacy in their personal belongings, even if someone else consented to the search of the jointly held premises where the item was located. The Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey and the ACLU both filed amicus briefs in support of the Defendant. In this published case, Anthony Miranda’s girlfriend filed a domestic violence complaint against him. The two had been together for several years and resided together. Miranda’s girlfriend alleged that he had threatened her with a gun. Police arrested Miranda and obtained a search warrant for Miranda’s residence but found no evidence. Miranda’s girlfriend subsequently told police about a storage locker where both she and Mr. Miranda kept belongings. She authorized police to search the storage locker. Miranda’s girlfriend observed a drawstring bag in the locker and told police it contained Miranda’s gun. Police opened Miranda’s bag and found two guns, a police badge, and ammunition.

Mr. Miranda pled guilty to second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, and received a five-year sentence, with forty-two months of parole ineligibility under the Grave’s Act provision. He later appealed the trial court’s holding that the search of his bag was lawful. The Appellate Division found that Miranda’s girlfriend could provide consent to search the storage trailer they shared but had an issue with police looking inside of a bag that was his property. The State argued that there were exigent circumstances justifying the warrantless search of Miranda’s bag. Exigent circumstances exist when there is an objectively reasonable basis to believe that someone’s life might be endangered, or evidence could be destroyed if officers stop to obtain a search warrant. The New Jersey Supreme Court held that because Miranda was already in custody, officers had sufficient time to obtain a search warrant. The warrantless search was therefore unconstitutional, and the evidence was suppressed. Miranda’s conviction was also reversed. It is essential to carefully review all the facts and circumstances of any warrantless search when preparing a defense against criminal charges.

Derek Miller

Written By Derek Miller

Partner

Derek Miller is a seasoned criminal attorney who served thirteen years as a Deputy Attorney General with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Division of Criminal Justice, before co-founding Lackey & Miller, LLC.

Recent Resource Articles

Jeremy Lackey and Derek Miller share their wealth of knowledge through our free blog.

    Don’t Fight Alone

    We’re Here to Help!
    With over 20 years of combined service, our team at Lackey & Miller, LLC has encountered situations similar to yours, and we possess the knowledge to adeptly guide you through the challenges you are facing.
    YouTube video