Vehicle Presumption Laws in New Jersey

Photo of Man Arrested for DrugsImagine: you and some buddies are driving around town and get pulled over by a police officer who is not too friendly.

He asks you all to step out of the vehicle because he wants to search it for contraband.

During the course of his search, he finds some marijuana and a firearm.

Everyone inside denies that it belongs to them.

Who is the officer allowed to arrest (presuming the stop, search, and seizure were all lawful)?

In New Jersey, the answer differs for the weapons and for the drugs.

NJ’s Law of Presumption for Drugs

In New Jersey, the officer would only be allowed to arrest the driver of the vehicle unless the drugs were found directly on the person of one of the passengers.

In other words, the law will presume that the operator of the vehicle, not his passengers, is the one in possession of the drugs.

Additionally, New Jersey law will presume that the driver had knowledge of the drugs being in the vehicle.

However, if you can prove that you truly did not know it was there (and have evidence to back it up with), then you can successfully rebut this presumption.

NJ’s Law of Presumption for Weapons

Alternatively, in the above scenario, the officer would be allowed to arrest every one of you for having the weapon.

According to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-2, when a firearm, weapon, destructive device, silencer, or explosive is found in a vehicle, it is presumed to be in the possession of all the occupants.

If there is only one occupant, it will be presumed to be in his possession.

However, it is worth noting that there are three exceptions to this.

  • First, if the weapon is found on the person of one of the occupants, NJ law will only presume that it is in that particular occupant’s possession, no one else’s.
  • Second, if the vehicle is not stolen and the weapon is found out of view in the glove compartment, trunk, or other similarly enclosed depository, the law will presume that is in the car operator’s possession only.
  • Lastly, if the vehicle is a taxicab and a weapon is found in the passenger portion of the cab, the law will presume that the weapon is in the possession of all the passengers, but not the cab driver.

However, if the only occupant is the cab driver, then the weapon (even if found in the passenger portion of the cab) will be presumed to be in the possession of the cab driver.

Remember, these types of presumptions are not absolute. If you are able to present enough evidence to rebut them, you can successfully overcome them.

Make sure to contact an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney to help you avoid vehicle presumptions that can land you behind bars.

Who Should You Contact?

If you or a loved one was recently charged with a crime in New Jersey, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of Rosenblum Law today.  Mr. Rosenblum is a skilled criminal defense attorney who has helped people in similar situations. He will defend your constitutional rights and do what he can to have your criminal charges dismissed. E-mail or call him today at 888-815-3649.


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