New Jersey bills address probable cause, CB use and more

| 7/28/2008

Several issues that have been brought up for consideration at the New Jersey statehouse are of interest to truck drivers. Among them are bills that would require probable cause for searches and exempt CB radio use from the state’s hand-held device restriction.

Probable cause for searches of motor vehicles is the topic of a Senate bill. Sponsored by Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, the measure would require law enforcement officers have probable cause to believe that a vehicle contains unlawful property before searching it.

In a statement attached to the bill, Turner wrote that by requiring probable cause for vehicle searches, the bill would eliminate so-called “consent searches.” No longer would officers who reasonably suspect wrongdoing be empowered to search a vehicle if they obtain the driver’s consent, she wrote.

Advocates say the rule change is needed because it is questionable whether drivers who are stopped fully understand they have a right to refuse the officer’s request for consent to search their vehicles.

The provision would apply to all state and local law enforcement officers in New Jersey.

Sen. Paul Sarlo, R-Wood-Ridge, has sponsored another bill that would require the state to offer the driver’s license exam for personal vehicles in Italian. The state also would be responsible for supplying an interpreter for test takers.

In addition to English, the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission now can administer the exam in Arabic, Chinese, French, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Commercial driver’s license testing is available in English and Spanish only.

Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, R-Parsippany, has introduced a separate bill would exempt the use of CBs by truck drivers from the state’s ban on hand-held communication devices while behind the wheel.

One more bill is intended to help truckers and other drivers on certain roads evacuate during emergencies. Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, the measure would require the State Police to implement a lane reversal strategy on the Atlantic City Expressway, the Garden State Parkway and Interstate 287.

Turner’s bill – S1520 – is in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sarlo’s bill – S2075 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee. DeCroce’s bill – A3084 – is awaiting assignment to committee. Van Drew’s bill – S2032 – is in the Senate Law and Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor