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Beware officers using 'smell of marijuana' as justification for search

When police conduct investigations into suspected drug activity, they are bound by various rules which aim to protect the constitutional rights of criminal suspects. Unfortunately, police do not always follow these rules as they should, and suspects end up having their privacy rights violated. In some cases, police officers may truly believe they are doing good work, but fail to see that they are pushing the limits.

As a recent article in the Tampa Bay Times points out, drug searches based on the alleged smell of marijuana are ones where dubious searches can and do happen. Although federal law permits officers to search motor vehicles without warrants in cases where a trained dog smells drugs, officers do not have unlimited authority to justify searches because of the supposed smell of marijuana or another drug.

In fact, one drug case was recently thrown out of the Pennellas-Pasco Circuit Court by a judge because it was determined that the officer who claimed to smell marijuana did not have an adequate foundation for that justification. It is cases like this which point to the need for defendants in drug cases to work with an experienced attorney to scrutinize the police work that led to charges against them.

Improper police work can come in a variety of forms depending on the case, but many of the discrepancies lie with illegal searches. In cases where officers conduct illegal searches, it is sometimes possible for defendants to have evidence excluded from trial. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney ensures that defendants are able to take full advantage of available protections in the criminal process.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "These pot searches by police don't pass the smell test," John Romano, June 2, 2014.

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