NJ: When the subject of a loud music complaint turned down the sound, no RS existed for continued detention

Police were called to a motel room because of a loud music complaint. The renter turned the music down, and, with that, the police should have left. Instead they wanted IDs and found a warrant on defendant. There was no basis for a detention at that point, and the subsequent search was invalid. State v. Chisum, 2019 N.J. LEXIS 187 (Feb. 5, 2019). Syllabus by the court:

Once the renter of the motel room lowered the volume of the music and the police declined to issue summonses, the police no longer had any reasonable suspicion that would justify the continued detention of the room’s occupants. Once the noise was abated, the police no longer had an independent basis to detain the occupants, or a basis to run warrant checks on them. Such action was unlawful. And because the detention and warrant checks were unlawful, the subsequent pat-down of Woodard was also improper. The judgment of the Appellate Division is therefore reversed, and the matter is remanded to the trial court for the withdrawal of defendants’ guilty pleas and further proceedings.

. . .

4. Applying those legal principles to the facts and circumstances of this case, the Court concludes that the detention of the motel room occupants, including Chisum and Woodard, was unconstitutional. Just because a location to which police officers are dispatched is a high-crime area does not mean that the residents in that area have lesser constitutional protection from random stops. The investigative detention in this instance, like all investigatory detentions, required that the officers reasonably and particularly suspected that the occupants in Room 221 engaged in, or were about to engage in, some form of criminal activity. Because the officers exercised their own discretion and declined to issue a summons for a noise violation, they essentially concluded that the occupants of Room 221 were not engaging in any criminal activity. Moreover, there is no evidence in the record that any occupants in Room 221 were about to engage in some form of criminal activity. Because the investigative detention here was based on less than reasonable suspicion, an unlawful seizure took place. The firearm discovered on Chisum in the search incident to arrest is therefore subject to the exclusionary rule. Consequently, the need to pat-down Woodard after finding the firearm on Chisum was also unnecessary, and the firearm found on Woodard is also subject to the exclusionary rule. (pp. 22-26)

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