New Hampshire v. Cora

The State appealed a superior court order that granted defendant Daniel Jesus Cora’s motion to suppress all evidence obtained from the warrantless entry by the police into his vehicle. On appeal, the State contended that the police were allowed to enter the vehicle without a warrant either under the federal automobile exception to the warrant requirement, which the State asked the New Hampshire Supreme Court adopt under the New Hampshire Constitution, or because the defendant had a diminished expectation of privacy in the interior space of his vehicle that is visible to the public. Alternatively, the State asked that the Supreme Court conclude New Hampshire v. Sterndale, 139 N.H. 445 (1995) has been abrogated by our decision in New Hampshire v. Goss, 150 N.H. 46 (2003), and that the Court adopt a “slightly more narrow exception” to the warrant requirement based upon the defendant’s diminished expectation of privacy in the “publicly visible areas of his car.” The Court declined to overrule Sterndale. However, it agreed that Sterndale was abrogated by Goss, at least in part, and that its abrogation required reevaluation of whether to adopt an automobile exception to the State warrant requirement. The Court recognized a limited automobile exception to the warrant requirement pursuant to which the police do not need to obtain a warrant to enter an automobile when the vehicle has been lawfully stopped while in transit and the police have probable cause to believe that a plainly visible item in the vehicle is contraband. In this case, the police did not need a warrant before entering defendant’s vehicle because the vehicle was subject to a lawful traffic stop, and the police had probable cause to believe that the baggie and cigarette, which were plainly visible, were drugs. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "New Hampshire v. Cora" on Justia Law