Environment: NJ Environmental Law Doesn’t Authorize Warrantless Property Inspections

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 12:00 am
 
Land Use Law Report, Volume 41, Number 4
 

State inspectors cannot enter private property to inspect it for violations of the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act without the owners’ consent or a court order.

Facts: Robert and Michelle Huber sued the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), alleging that a DEP inspector improperly entered their property without a warrant, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and the New Jersey Constitution. The DEP inspector had been investigating the Hubers’ alleged violations of the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act (FWPA).

The FWPA established a permitting process that property owners must follow before engaging in any activity that could disturb freshwater wetlands or transition areas near wetlands. The permitting process balances each property owner’s interest in using the property with the public’s interest in preserving these natural resources.

The Hubers bought their property in 1997, and they had actual and constructive notice that portions of their property were subject to the FWPA. Nevertheless, the Hubers f[..]

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