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Court Rules Vehicle Search Based on Marijuana Smell Unlawful

In Pennsylvania, a judge ruled that officers acted unreasonably when they searched a vehicle in which they smelled drugs even after the passenger showed them his medical marijuana card.

Background of the Case

In November of 2017, a man and his wife were pulled over by police. When the cops smelled marijuana in the vehicle, they told the couple that they were authorized to conduct a search. However, the man, who was the passenger, used marijuana for medicinal purposes and showed the officers his card. Despite that, law enforcement moved forward with the search and found marijuana and a loaded gun on the driver’s side. The couple was charged with firearm and drug possession.

Violation of Constitutional Rights

The eastern Pennsylvania judge stated that the officers violated the driver’s and passenger’s rights by searching the vehicle after being shown the medical marijuana card.

Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, citizens are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures of their property. Although, generally, officers do not need a warrant to search a person’s vehicle, they can only conduct a warrantless search under specific circumstances, such as suspecting that a crime has been committed.

Since 2016, medical marijuana has been legal in the state, and those with certain health conditions are permitted to possess the substance. Because the passenger had a license, the couple was not involved in illegal activity, and the officers’ search was not reasonable.

The judge stated that the officers’ behavior indicated a “disconnect between the medical community and the law enforcement community.” It appears that officers are unclear about what constitutes lawful and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Discuss Your Case During a Free Consultation with Law Offices of William D. Thompson

Backed by 15 years of legal experience, we understand the complexities of the laws concerning marijuana possession, as well as protections from illegal searches and seizures. When you retain our services, we will review your circumstances to determine if your rights were violated and if the prosecutor’s evidence could be presented in court. We will work toward getting charges dropped or your case dismissed.

Get skilled legal defense on your side by calling us at (570) 666-1068 or contacting us online.

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