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PA Supreme Court rules out marijuana smell as probable cause

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2022 | Criminal Law | 0 comments

When law enforcement pulls over a driver, officers must follow procedures indicated by their department’s policies. Deviation from this procedure risks violating a person’s fundamental rights. Anytime other laws change, law enforcement procedures may require a change of their own.

CBS Pittsburgh reports on an incident where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a traffic stop and search was illegal.

Searches justified by smells

Marijuana has a distinct odor. In states where marijuana is illegal, its smell may justify probable cause for law enforcement to search a driver’s vehicle. The same goes for legal medical cannabis, derived from the same plant.

A driver received charges from law enforcement for illegal possession of marijuana and a firearm after a search. The only probable cause noted by officers to warrant the search was that they smelled marijuana.

Pennsylvania allows for legal medical marijuana. As that is a legal source for the smell, Supreme Courts decided that the plain smell of weed does not necessarily mean that a driver has committed something illegal. With the odor no longer grounds for probable cause, the courts ruled that law enforcement infringed on the driver’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Lives altered by errant charges

This report does not detail how much marijuana officers found nor how long it took between the search itself and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dropping the charges. Possession of illegal marijuana in Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor with jail times of up to three years and fines up to $25,000 depending on the amount in question.

Criminal allegations like these may upturn everything in a person’s life. Defending against these drug charges is one way to help possibly reduce or remove them.



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