A common scenario in Florida occurs when the police pull over a driver for a traffic violation and suspect the driver has drugs in his/her vehicle and finds a way to search the vehicle. For possession of marijuana or trafficking in marijuana cases, the police report often indicates that the police officer smelled marijuana in the vehicle. Is this alleged odor of marijuana sufficient for a police officer to search a person’s vehicle?
In a possession of marijuana case near Jacksonville, Florida, a police officer pulled the defendant over for running a stop sign. When he approached the defendant’s vehicle, he said he smelled an odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle. The police officer then told the defendant to get out of the vehicle, searched the car and found marijuana inside a closed container. The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the marijuana arguing that the smell of marijuana is not sufficient for a police officer to search a vehicle without a search warrant. The court disagreed and found the opposite. In Florida, if the police officer says he/she smells an odor of marijuana coming from a vehicle, he/she can search it.
The obvious problem is that the police officer can always say he/she smells marijuana coming from the vehicle and search the vehicle every time. If he/she finds marijuana, then he/she must have been right. If he/she does not find marijuana, the police can always say there must have been marijuana recently in the vehicle but removed.