Recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that an officer's mistake of law about the motor vehicle statutes requirement of tail lights was not reasonable mistake of law, justifying the motor vehicle stop he conducted.
The Defendant argued that the traffic stop constituted an unreasonable seizure because his vehicle had three operable taillights, in compliance with the requirements of N.J.S.A. 39:3-61(a) and -66.
The Court held the motor vehicle statutes pertinent here are not ambiguous. The officer’s stop of defendant’s motor vehicle was not an objectively reasonable mistake of law that gave rise to constitutional reasonable suspicion; the stop was therefore unconstitutional.
State v. Sutherland (decided January 11, 2018)