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State v. Kabayama

Decided: February 7, 1967.

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ABRAHAM KABAYAMA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Collins, J.c.c.

Collins

[94 NJSuper Page 79] The stipulated facts of this case are as follows. On July 23, 1966, between the hours of 8 and 11 P.M., the Mendham Township Police Department conducted a motor vehicle check on Route 24, Mendham Township, Morris County, at the intersection of Tingley Road. 731 motor vehicles were stopped. Six police officers participated

in the check, which involved the interception of traffic in both directions. Each officer was directed to stop one vehicle at a time, without delay, and as each vehicle was released a subsequent vehicle was stopped. At approximately 8:30 P.M. defendant was travelling with his wife, a passenger in the front right seat, to a church affair in Morristown, when he was stopped by Officer Newell, who requested his license and registration. While defendant was looking for the license and registration the police officer made a routine examination of the car by walking around the outside, front and back, and scanning the inside of the car with a searchlight through the window. When defendant could not produce the registration after looking for it for ten minutes, Officer Newell issued a summons for violation of R.S. 39:3-29, for failure to have his registration in his possession. Defendant was found guilty on August 22, 1966 in the Mendham Township Municipal Court and was fined $3 and $2 costs.

The sole question presented is whether the establishment of roadblocks by the police to stop all motor vehicles passing a certain locale in order to make routine checks for licenses and registrations constitutes an illegal invasion of privacy, contrary to the provisions of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Article I, paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution (1947).

The establishment of roadblocks such as the one in this case is done in order to give effect to R.S. 39:3-29 which provides:

"The driver's license and the registration certificate of a motor vehicle shall be in the possession of the driver or operator at all times when he is in charge of a motor vehicle on the highways of this state.

The driver or operator shall exhibit his driver's license, and the holder of a registration certificate or the operator or driver of a motor vehicle for which a registration certificate has been issued, whether or not the holder, driver or operator is a resident of this state, shall also exhibit the registration certificate, when requested so to do by any motor vehicle inspector, police officer or magistrate, while in the performance of the duties of his office and shall write his name in the presence of the officer, so that the officer may thereby

determine the identity of the licensee and at the same time determine the correctness of the registration certificate, as it relates to the registration number and number plates of the motor vehicle for which it was issued.

Any person violating this section shall be subject to a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars."

This case presents a question of first impression in New Jersey. However, this situation has been dealt with outside the State.

In City of Miami v. Aronovitz, 114 So. 2 d 784 (Fla. Sup. Ct. 1959), defendant sought to enjoin a municipality from operating roadblocks for the purpose of checking automobile drivers' licenses. On appeal from a temporary restraint the Florida Supreme Court held that the municipal police department could operate a roadblock to check automobile driver's licenses, and such practice did not amount to an illegal search and seizure contrary to the state and federal constitutions, nor did it amount to an unreasonable invasion of a motorist's constitutional right to use the public ways.

The Court of Appeals of Kentucky reached the same conclusion in Commonwealth v. Mitchell, 355 S.W. 2 d 686 (1962). And the recent case of Mincy v. District of Columbia, 218 A. 2 d 507 (D.C. Ct. App. 1966), which cited both Aronovitz and Mitchell cases, held that a routine spot-check of a motorist to ascertain if he has complied with the requirement of possession of a permit is neither unreasonable nor invalid, provided such check is not used as a substitute for a search for evidence of some possible ...


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