STATE v. DION E. ROBINSON, 441 N.J.Super. 33 (App. Div. 2015)

The court reverses an order denying defendant's motion to suppress the handgun seized in a "protective sweep" of his car. Following a routine late-night traffic stop on the Garden State Parkway, police dispatch advised the patrol officer that defendant driver and one of his three passengers had open warrants and were known to carry weapons. Deciding to proceed "tactically," five officers approached with guns drawn and ordered all occupants out of the car. The two men with warrants were arrested and placed in patrol cars. Neither of the two remaining passengers possessed a driver's license. Because there are no facts in the record to support a reasonable suspicion on the part of the officer that the unlicensed drivers were dangerous and could return to the car to obtain immediate access to a weapon, the court deems the search unreasonable.

 

Judge Nugent dissents, concluding the totality of circumstances justified both the officer's belief that a gun was in the car and his protective sweep for the safety of the officers on the scene as well as the public under the community caretaking doctrine.