Pubdate: Thu, 09 May 2002
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company
Author: The New York Times


TRENTON, May 8 - The Black Ministers Council of New Jersey today announced 
a campaign to inform minority drivers that they have a right to refuse to 
submit to so-called automobile consent searches, which have been the focus 
of the fight over racial profiling.

The ministers said at a State House news conference that they would begin 
their "Just Say No" campaign next week, in messages to minority churches 
and the news media.

Consent searches, in the past, could be based on little more than a 
trooper's hunch. But in March, the State Supreme Court handed down a ruling 
requiring that police officers have an "articulable suspicion" before 
searching a driver's car, effectively ending a majority of searches. The 
ruling did not alter probable cause searches, which can be conducted 
without the driver's consent when there is physical evidence, like the 
smell of drugs or alcohol, or a weapon visible in the car.

The Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, executive director of the council, said that 
the ruling would not stop all police officers, particularly municipal 
officers, from trying to make unfounded searches.

"Even though the court has ruled, a lot of people really don't know that 
you have the right to say no without being afraid that there will be some 
kind of repercussion," Mr. Jackson said in an interview. "So part of the 
campaign will be to tell people what to do if they are stopped."
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