Driving with your high beams on is not justification for police to pull you over, ruled the New Jersey Supreme Court. On July 20, the court decided unanimously that such traffic stops are unconstitutional.
The ruling is the result of a case stemming from an incident in November 2013. Essex County police officer David Cohen was investigating an abandoned vehicle at 3:30 a.m. when he noticed another car driving by with its high beams turned on. Police stopped the car and found an unlicensed handgun, hollow-nose bullets, and a large-capacity magazine, all of which belonged to one of the passengers, Al-Sharif Scriven. He was charged with receiving stolen property and unlawful possession of a handgun and ammunition.
New Jersey law only mandates that drivers lower their high beams when they see an oncoming vehicle. The Supreme court ruled that the police officer’s car, which was parked on a side street, did not count as an oncoming vehicle. The driver had not violated any traffic laws that would otherwise have given police reasonable basis to conduct a stop. The traffic stop was therefore deemed unconstitutional and the evidence against Scriven was dismissed.
Prosecutors had argued that car thieves often drive with high beams on to “dazzle” police officers. The court rejected that claim.
Writing for the court, Justice Barry T. Albin said, “The high-beam statute is unambiguous in its language and meaning to both the public and police. We reject the state’s argument that an unoccupied police vehicle parked on a perpendicular street and a police officer on foot, collectively or individually, count as an ‘oncoming’ vehicle under the statute. We also do not find the state’s argument to be an objectively reasonable interpretation of the statute.”
If you or a loved one has been subject to an unjustified traffic stop or for any other criminal offense in New Jersey, contact an attorney for help. Adam H. Rosenblum of the Rosenblum Law Firm is a skilled criminal defense attorney with experience helping people in similar situations. Email the Rosenblum Law Firm or call 888-979-7551 today for a free consultation about your case.
Caption: High beams can be used on empty roads at night and does not justify a traffic stop. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.