Odor of marijuana supports search of vehicle despite the decriminalization of less than 10 grams of marijuana
Recently, the Court of Special Appeals held that marijuana odor still justifies a vehicle search despite the decriminalization of less than 10 grams in Maryland.
Routes 140, 97 and 27 in Carroll County, Maryland are possible locations for a K-9 drug sniffing dog to detect marijuana odor.
Marijuana odor detected by K-9 drug sniffing dog
On January 2, 2015, at approximately noon, Officer Brian Barr, a member of the Salisbury Police Department, was patrolling in his vehicle in Salisbury, Maryland.
Officer Barr decided to follow the defendant’s vehicle and observed the defendant fail to signal during two turns. After the defendant made the second illegal turn, Officer Barr activated his lights and initiated a traffic stop.
Officer Barr called for a K-9 unit, too.
The K-9 alerted when passing the rear driver’s side door. After the K-9 alert, Officer Barr decided to search the vehicle. The search revealed 198.2 grams of marijuana, a “smoking device,” a scale, a large sum of cash, and a single OxyContin tablet (5 milligrams) inside a cigarette carton.
The defendant moved to suppress the evidence found as a result of the marijuana odor search.
Defendant’s motion to suppress marijuana odor search denied
Did the K-9 positive drug alert furnish probable cause to search the defendant’s vehicle given the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana and the K-9’s inability to distinguish between the odor of less than 10 grams of marijuana and 10 or more grams of marijuana?
The Court of Special Appeals rejected the defendant’s contention that the decriminalized of possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana no longer justifies a search after a K-9 alert on a vehicle for the presence of marijuana.
The Court of Special Appeals noted that marijuana is still contraband and that the legislation decriminalizing marijuana did not alter the law regarding search and seizure.
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