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Can Police Officers Perform Searches Because They Smell Marijuana?

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hartford drug charges defense lawyerEncounters with police officers can be stressful. Whether a person is pulled over in a traffic stop, has an officer knock on the door of their home, or is approached by police in other situations, they may worry that if they say or do the wrong thing, they could be arrested or face criminal charges. If police officers perform a search of a person’s vehicle or other property, they may uncover evidence that may be used to pursue drug charges or other types of criminal charges. Due to concerns about police misconduct, a person may worry that these types of searches will provide officers with the opportunity to plant evidence that may be used against them in a criminal case. Fortunately, recent changes to the law and rulings by courts have limited police officers’ ability to perform searches based on claims that they smell marijuana.

Marijuana Odor May Not Be a Valid Reason to Conduct a Warrantless Search

For many years, claims that an officer has noticed the odor of marijuana have provided a pretext for performing a search of a person, vehicle, home, or other property without receiving consent from the person or obtaining a search warrant. Officers are generally allowed to perform warrantless searches if they have probable cause to believe that a person has violated the law. Since marijuana was treated as an illegal controlled substance in the past, the alleged smell of this drug was often seen as a strong sign that a person had illegally possessed or used the substance. When performing searches based on the smell of marijuana, officers may have been able to find drugs or other contraband, and this would often lead to arrests and criminal charges.

As marijuana has been legalized for medical and recreational use in a large number of states, the smell of this drug may no longer be seen as an indication that a person has violated the law. Recently, courts in several states have addressed this issue. In Delaware, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that drugs found in a search performed after a minor was arrested because of the smell of marijuana in a vehicle were not admissible as evidence. 

When the State of Connecticut recently passed a law legalizing marijuana, it specifically addressed this issue. Under the new law, the odor of cannabis cannot be used by police officers as probable cause to stop or search a person or vehicle. Any evidence uncovered in a search that was based on the smell of marijuana is inadmissible in a criminal trial. 

Contact Our Connecticut Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer

While changing laws have prohibited police officers from using the smell of marijuana as a pretext for a search, there are many other situations where officers may conduct illegal searches. Those who are facing criminal charges can work with a lawyer to determine whether their Constitutional rights have been violated. At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we can provide you with a strong defense and help you build a winning strategy that will address illegally-obtained evidence or other violations of your rights. Contact our Hartford drug charges defense attorney today by calling 860-290-8690 to arrange a free consultation.

Sources:

https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/pot-smell-didnt-provide-probable-cause-for-juveniles-arrest-top-delaware-court-says

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2021/BA/PDF/2021SB-01201-R02SS1-BA.PDF

https://www.journalinquirer.com/crime_and_courts/police-continue-to-grapple-with-connecticuts-new-pot-law-and-enforcement/article_5000abe8-f141-11eb-b796-076cf801f1f8.html


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