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New Jersey weapons charge challenged due to search process

Police have limited authority, no matter what any one of them might think. There are rules in the criminal justice system that are meant to protect people from being accused and convicted of crimes that they didn't commit. That process is crucially important in living up to America's standard of justice.

A 23-year-old man is awaiting his fate regarding a New Jersey weapons charge. The case has made its way through a trial court to an appeals court and will eventually be heard by the state supreme court. The challenge stems from the argument that police collected evidence that helped convict the suspect without having the authority to search his room.

The young man was arrested by authorities in May 2009, based on suspicion that he may have been involved in a robbery nearby. While the suspect was in the custody of police, officials visited the residence where he was staying. With permission from the suspect's aunt (the owner of the home) they searched his room and found firearms to support a weapons charge against the defendant.

An appeals court overturned the defendant's initial conviction of the offense because they looked at the living situation of the suspect at the time of the search and believed that the aunt should have been considered a sort of landlord. The defendant was renting his room from her. Landlords do not have the authority to allow searches of their tenants' rooms or apartments.

A person's privacy is an important thing to protect. That isn't just an opinion; it is an integral rule that keeps the criminal justice system running ethically and protects citizens from reckless police work.

Source: Courier-Post, "New Jersey Supreme Court to consider Camden man's weapons case," Jim Walsh, Nov. 5, 2012