Tampa Criminal Law Experts

Tampa Criminal Law Experts

Is it legal for the police to search my car if they smell marijuana? Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog Series Part 2

Previously, we asked, “is it legal for the police to search my car if they smell marijuana? Specifically, we discussed the Florida Supreme Court Ruling of State v. Betz, a criminal law search and seizure case. So far, this case law seems to indicate that the police can indeed conduct such a search if they smell marijuana.

Let’s continue our analysis of 2002 the Supreme Court of Florida ruling, State v. Betz. In our last criminal drug lawyer blog post, we mentioned that part of the search and seizure appeal decision was affirmed, but another part of the decision was reversed.

The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed held that once the police officers who pulled Betz over smelled marijuana both on his clothes and inside his vehicle, they had sufficient probable cause to search both his person for weapons and contraband and the interior of his vehicle.

However, in the reversing part of the decision, The Florida Appeals Court went on the rule that the probable cause that existed to search the interior of the vehicle did not extend to the trunk or containers therein. Therefore, the bag of marijuana that was discovered inside Betz’s trunk was done so by an illegal search and seizure, and should have been inadmissible in Betz’s original Florida felony drug possession criminal trial.

Prosecutors subsequently appealed the Second District Court of Appeals reversal regarding the suppression of the marijuana seized from Betz’s trunk to the Florida State Supreme Court.

A complete examination of Florida’s high court’s decision is beyond the scope of a single Tampa criminal lawyer blog post. However, we will offer a very brief synopsis here. The Florida Supreme Court said that the police officers had the right to search his truck because they were looking at the totality of the circumstances during the stop. i.e. The smell of marijuana on Betz, his nervous demeanor during the interactions with the Clearwater police officers and the discovery of marijuana on his person. The High Court ruled that police officers, in this case, were presented with sufficient probable cause to complete a search of Betz’s entire vehicle.

So the answer to our pressing question “Is it legal for police officers to search my car if they smell marijuana?” is, “YES.” The State v. Betz decision determines that the smell of marijuana alone provide police officers with probable cause to conduct a search of your person and the interior of their vehicle during a traffic stop. But also, if the smell is present with other factors then it can provide enough probable cause for the police to search your entire vehicle.

Your freedom is at stake, so we urge you to defend your rights and hire an experienced Tampa criminal lawyer. You and your drug lawyer can determine if your rights were violated in any manner, including via an illegal search and seizure.

Are charged with a drug crime? Drug possession? Drug trafficking? Or Drug Manufacturing? Your future is at stake! Please, consider contacting an experienced Tampa Criminal Law Expert as soon as possible as your freedom and your future are at stake. Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyers or call the Tampa Criminal Law Experts at the offices of de la Grana | Boardman at (813) 248-0704.


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