The Right to Privacy In Your Car in New Mexico: More from State v. Ochoa

The New Mexico Supreme Court in State v. Ochoa clarified the rights of privacy in a car. The New Mexico constitution allows for New Mexico courts to expand on the rights against unlawful search & seizure afforded under federal law.

Under federal law, there is a lower expectation of privacy once a person enters into an automobile. The justification for the lower level of privacy in an automobile under federal law is that the inherent mobility of an automobile creates greater need for an immediate stop to prevent the loss of evidence.

New Mexico acknowledges the reasoning but rejects the conclusions of the U.S Supreme Court in Whren. Instead, Ochoa states that warrantless searches are per se unreasonable. The State bears the burden of proving the stop and the ensuing search were reasonable.

The Court in Ochoa explains that the greater protection from unreasonable search & seizure in an automobile is a distinct characteristic of the laws of New Mexico. Ochoa explicitly rejects the suggestion under Whren that a person‘s expectation of privacy is lessened in a car.

Finally, the court stated that though there are exceptions to the warrant requirement, the same standard requiring exigent circumstances to conduct a warrantless search are present in a car as in a person‘s home. Exigent circumstances justifying a warrantless search exist only where delay in obtaining a warrant will jeopardize the legitimate interests of law enforcement.

A mere hunch as present in Ochoa is simply not enough.


Related Reading:
Unlawful Search & Seizure Under the 4th Amendment
Evidence Seized Under the Pretext of a Traffic Stop is Inadmissible
Your Home is Safe from Unlawful Search & Seizure in New Mexico

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