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Can the Police Search You and Your Car If They Smell Marijuana?

If you are accused of committing a drug-related crime, it is critical you have an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle your case. Knowing your rights when it comes to marijuana related offenses is important for your case. For example, what if the police smell marijuana in your vehicle? Can they search you or your car?

In the case of the State of Florida versus K.V., the answer was yes. The facts in that case were as follows:

“On the evening of January 10, 2001, K.V. dropped off a friend at an apartment complex in Lauderhill. Driving through the gated entrance to the complex, K.V. stopped to speak to the security guard, who noticed an odor of burning marijuana emanating from the vehicle. The guard let K.V.’s car pass into the complex.

The next car in line at the security gate was a patrol car driven by Deputy Sheriff Santiago Vazquez. The guard told the deputy, ‘the vehicle that just went in front of you smells a lot like marijuana.’ The deputy followed K.V.’s car into the complex and pulled right behind him as he parked. From a few feet away, Deputy Vazquez observed a small cloud of smoke billow from the car as the passenger opened his door. As he approached the driver with his gun drawn, the deputy smelled the odor of marijuana wafting from within the car.

The deputy asked K.V. for his driver’s license and registration. As he was looking into the car, the deputy noticed a ‘baggie of marijuana that was pinched between the seat and center console.’ Vasquez ordered both occupants out of the car and onto the ground. He searched both boys and found marijuana in the passenger’s pocket. A search of the car turned up the baggie of marijuana from the center console and a marijuana cigarette, still warm to the touch, in the front ashtray. The seized items field tested positive for marijuana. The deputy issued K.V. a notice to appear for possession of marijuana.”

K.V.’s lawyer later filed a motion with the trial judge stating that the search of K.V. and his car by Deputy Vasaquez was illegal and that the marijuana should therefore be “suppressed” (which is a fancy way of saying that evidence should be thrown out of court). The judge agreed with K.V. However, the prosecutor appealed. Unfortunately for K.V., the court of appeals sided with the prosecutor this time and said that the odor of burnt marijuana “unquestionably” provided the officer with probable cause not only to stop K.V.’s car but also to search the entire passenger compartment as well as each of the passengers in that car.

If you feel your rights have been violated or have questions about drug laws in Florida, contact me Ron Chapman at 561-832-4348 or connect with my West Palm Beach Law office online today. I am a dedicated defense lawyer and can help defend your rights. Contact me today so we can begin to discuss your case.