plate, and the inconsistency between the New Jersey inspection sticker and the South Carolina rear license plate, quite properly aroused the curiosity of the officer who made the stop.
Even without these unusual circumstances the officer was entitled to stop defendant and inspect his driver's license. N.J.S.A. 39:3-29. Upon making the stop the officer discovered that defendant was driving without a valid license and was in possession of a stolen license plate. Either of these discoveries was sufficient to justify the arrest. N.J.S.A. 39:3-17 requires non-resident drivers to be in possession of valid driver's licenses from their residence states. N.J.S.A. 39:5-25 authorizes warrantless arrest of persons violating N.J.S.A. 39:3-17 or N.J.S.A. 39:3-29. Possession of stolen property similarly constitutes ground for arrest without a warrant. N.J.S.A. 2A:170-41.1.
The arrest was thus valid, and the police were entitled to subject defendant to a thorough search of his person at that point. United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S. Ct. 467, 38 L. Ed. 2d 427 (filed 12/11/73). The search of defendant's vehicle at that time without a warrant was also permissible, because it was incident to the lawful arrest. State v. La Porte, 62 N.J. 312, 301 A.2d 146 (1973); State v. Waltz, 61 N.J. 83, 293 A.2d 167 (1972); State v. Griffin, 84 N.J. Super. 508, 519, 202 A.2d 856 (App. Div. 1964).
The events of the morning of March 11, 1973 inexorably and lawfully led, step-by-step, to the discovery of the evidence which defendant would have the Court suppress. Lack of a valid license and possession of contraband gave the police probable cause to arrest the defendant and search the car without a warrant for other contraband. Chambers v. Maroney, 399 U.S. 42, 90 S. Ct. 1975, 26 L. Ed. 2d 419, reh. denied. 400 U.S. 856, 91 S. Ct. 23, 27 L. Ed. 2d 94 (1970); Coolidge v. N.H., 403 U.S. 443, 91 S. Ct. 2022, 29 L. Ed. 2d 564, reh. denied, 404 U.S. 874, 92 S. Ct. 26, 30 L. Ed. 2d 120 (1971); State v. Griffin, supra.
Defendant took the stand and testified. His account varied from that of the officers in a number of respects, but none is considered material. The differences are of the kind that inevitably occur about details of unexpected events or occurrences for which there are usually no external reference points for verification. Even with the differences, defendant's testimony lacked certainty and the degree of his uncertainty was of such breadth as not to be inconsistent with the testimony of the officers.
The Fourth Amendment unequivocally protects "against unreasonable searches and seizures." The issue of reasonableness is commonly evidenced by the issuance of a warrant to search, based upon probable cause, but nothing in the Constitution limits the evidence of reasonableness to that mode of proof.
In light of the foregoing, defendant's motion to suppress is denied.
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