Case Notes

State v. Donis: The New Jersey Supreme Court Turns Its Back While Police Conduct Random Mobile Data Terminal Searches


Kevin C. Wille


VOL. XVII • Summer 1999 • NO. 4 (table of contents)

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This article attacks the validity of the controversial holding in the Donis case that allows law enforcement officers to use personal information provided by the Department of Motor Vehicle ("DMV") at the officers' discretion. The main hurdle that the court had to overcome was the New Jersey Constitution. Ultimately the court found that the personal information was not protected because it was being used for legitimate law enforcement practices. The underlying sentiment of the court is that law officers would not abuse their authority when searching for stolen vehicles and invalid drivers licenses using a mobile data terminal ("MDT").

The author criticizes the courts decision on several levels. The author adamantly contests the idea that law officials can be trusted with this power. He believes that the police officers will abuse their discretion by searching for personal information when the situation does not warrant further investigation. The next portion of the decision that the author finds disagreeable is the remedy the court found appropriate. Although the random searches were not considered a violation of the New Jersey Constitution the court implemented a two-tier search process that would give less freedom to law enforcement officials. The article proposes the idea of legislation to control the use of random MDT searches, rather than relying on the two-tier system and the unbridled discretion of the police officers.

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