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Routine Traffic Stops and Marijuana Smell

There is a great deal of concern lately regarding abuse of police powers. That’s not what this post is about.

This post has been written to provide information for what is allowed during a police stop should the officer smell marijuana in your car.

Now, it’s important to know that Marijuana is illegal in many places. Rogers Garcia Patton does not condone use of illegal drugs in any way. Even if it is legal in the state where the traffic stop occurs, do not use Marijuana and drive your car, or use Marijuana while in your car. By using Marijuana and then driving, you are endangering the lives of your fellow drivers and every pedestrian along the way.

Since we practice law in Texas, we are going to address what police in Texas have the right to do should they happen to smell marijuana in your car. The main question here is one of probable cause. In Texas, probable cause is the assumption on the part of the police that:

  • It is reasonable to believe that a crime was committed by the individual to be arrested
  • There is probable cause to believe a crime was committed at the location to be searched
  • The location to be searched contains evidence or contraband related to a crime

There is an important distinction here. This article relates to police smelling marijuana in a car. Within a home, office or other building where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, the smell of burnt marijuana alone cannot be the basis for a warrantless search. However, police have the right to search your vehicle if burnt marijuana odor is evident because your vehicle is NOT the same thing as your home. Generally, the police need a warrant to search your home. In order to search your vehicle the police only need probable cause and the smell of burnt marijuana indicates probable cause.

The bottom line is that if you smoke pot in your car and the police smell it, they have probable cause and can search your vehicle.

If you believe that there wasn’t probable cause for the search, call us and tell us your story to see if you have recourse in your case. We have experience in many different scenarios and may be able to help.

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