New Jersey v. TorresAnnotate this Case
Dispatched to a residence where an axe murder had taken place, Detective Marchak learned that the victim and his stepson, defendant Joao Torres, were the only two people believed to have been in the house the previous night. In the bedroom, the mattress was soaked in blood and there was a significant amount of blood on the wall and ceiling. Within a few hours, officers located defendant, placed him under arrest on an outstanding warrant, and, at 3:55 p.m., placed him in a squad car to be transported to the police station. At the station, detectives interviewed defendant until he invoked his right to counsel. Defendant made incriminating admissions during the interview that provided probable cause to arrest him for murder. Defendant was ultimately charged in a twenty-count indictment with murder, disturbing human remains, and several other offenses. Defendant moved to suppress the warrantless seizure of his clothing. After a hearing, the judge denied the motion. Defendant entered a guilty plea. He then appealed, arguing that “the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress the evidence seized as a result of the warrantless strip search.” The Appellate Division held that the search was not a strip search but remanded “for more explicit findings of fact and conclusions of law” to justify the warrantless seizure. On remand, the trial court issued an amplified written opinion holding that the seizure of defendant’s clothing was valid as a search incident to arrest under the totality of the circumstances. The Appellate Division affirmed. Finding no reversible error in the lower courts’ judgments, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed.