The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that police have the right to run a criminal background check on a passenger in a vehicle they pull over, says the Newark Star-Ledger. The decision raises the question of whether background checks on passengers will become routine. Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler, president of the state Association of Chiefs of Police, said such checks would not occur without reasonable suspicion and the public should not expect them to become routine. Robert Pierce, an attorney who argued against passenger checks, said passengers who have committed no crimes may now have to sit and wait while police “conduct a fishing expedition.”
The court ruled 6-0 that a passenger in a vehicle stopped by police is considered in custody and that it is not unconstitutional for an officer to run a background check on the individual. The court said Carteret police did not violate constitutional rights of Sulaiman Sloane, 34, when they ran a National Crime Information Center database check on him after they stopped the car he was riding in. The driver of the car was found to have a suspended license. Police then ran a check on Sloane and found his license was suspended. They then checked his name in the NCIC database and discovered he was wanted for a parole violation and two outstanding arrest warrants.