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Judge: Police stop based on marijuana odor alone OK

The smell of marijuana smoke is quite distinctive. A lot of people, even some users, don't like it. But there apparently are some who do. For them, there is cannabis-scented incense. Look it up on Amazon if you doubt it.

If your reaction to this bit of information is, who cares? We might suggest that you should Based on a decision in a Norfolk court today, if you're in a car in which the incense has been burned, it might give the police justification to pull you over. And who knows what might follow?

The police stop in this case didn't result in any drug charges, but it did result in a passenger in the vehicle being charged with illegal possession of a gun. The decision by the court apparently lets that charge stand. Here's what happened according to the news report.

Three Norfolk officers in a single squad car were cruising along Princess Anne Road Dec. 7 when they claimed they smelled marijuana. The windows of their car were all up. Officers said the smell was coming through the vents. They suspected it came from a vehicle in front of them.

In court today, the officer who had been driving the squad said he pulled the vehicle over after about four blocks and that the sole basis of the stop was his suspicion of marijuana use. The stopped vehicle reportedly also had a taillight out, but the officer said that didn't factor in his decision.

In the course of the stop, a search of the suspect vehicle was made. No marijuana was found, but officers said they did find a gun in the purse of a 25-year-old female in the back seat. She was arrested on the weapons charge and that was what was before the court.

Prosecutors argued that the officers' claim that they smelled marijuana was sufficient for the stop. But the defendant's attorney suggested the claim was incredible and he said that finding the stop reasonable would fly in the face of constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure.

The judge disagreed and ruled the stop legal.

The lesson to learn is that courts may differ in their findings case to case, but legal representation should be enlisted no matter what.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "Judge: Cops can stop cars solely on the odor of pot," Scott Daugherty, March 27, 2014

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