What do you do if you are pulled over by a cop who says that he needs to search your car because it smells of marijuana? Not a lot of people actually know the answer to this question, since they are not aware of the laws pertaining to marijuana possession in Texas and their legal rights in the aforementioned situation.
In this article, we take a look at the concept of ‘probable cause’ when it comes to searching your vehicle for marijuana and the necessity of having a skilled Texas criminal defense lawyer by your side to defend your rights in such cases.
Your Constitutional Rights Regarding Searches and Seizures by Law Enforcement
The Fourth Amendment prohibits law enforcement agencies from conducting a search and seizure on a person’s property without any evidence. If the property in question happens to be your residence, the officer must obtain a warrant before he can legally enter your home and search it for contraband.
The same rule, however, does not apply to your vehicle. Since your car, truck, or trailer is mobile, there is a possibility that you can flee the scene before the officer can obtain a warrant. So, if the officer detects the smell of marijuana coming from your car, he has probable cause to search your vehicle.
What Causes a Cop to Search Your Vehicle for Marijuana?
The smell of marijuana is the most commonly stated reason by cops for searching a vehicle. In addition to that, there are other factors that might confirm their suspicion.
- If you look dazed and disoriented
- If your car contains pipes, vape pens, and other such paraphernalia
In the aforementioned scenario, the cop might definitely want to check your car.
What Should You Do if a Cop Says He Wants to Search Your Car?
If a cop says that your car smells of marijuana, you are well within your rights to deny it and say that you do not smell anything. It is, however, unlikely to deter the cop from conducting a search, since he believes that he has probable cause.
Similarly, the patrol officer might ask you if you consent to a search. You can always say no, but it is not likely to stop the cop in his tracks if he believes that he has probable cause.
In some cases, the law enforcement officer might simply ask you about marijuana to see how you react. If you look flustered or worried, it might confirm their suspicions and give them the probable cause they were looking for to search your vehicle.
So, your best option in such a scenario is to remain calm, answer the cop’s questions in a non-confrontational tone, and clearly state that you do not consent to a search.
If the cop finds any incriminating evidence and asks you about it, do not try to argue with him or her or respond to the officer’s questions. Instead, simply state that you need to talk to a Texas criminal defense attorney.
Using Odor to Establish Probable Cause – Key Issues
Law enforcement officials in Austin and Travis County seem to be heading in a direction where smelling for pot (or the use of drug dogs) may no longer be the first step in establishing probable cause. Police officers in these areas have been asked not necessarily to use odor alone as the element for probable cause. A number of other indicators could be used, but the police have yet to clarify what those indicators could be that might lead them to search.
The police in Texas can still arrest for marijuana possession, but how exactly they plan to navigate the waters following the passage of the new bill last year that legalized the production of hemp remains to be seen.
According to law enforcement officials, they are still continuing with alerts provided by sniffer dogs, but unlike in the past, they may no longer be using these alerts as a standalone reason to establish probable cause. They might build a case for probable cause citing suspicious behavior during an encounter or relying on observable physical evidence, apart from considering odor smelled by them or a police dog.
Drug Possession Lawyers in Texas
If you are charged with driving while impaired (DWI) or for marijuana possession, you should contact an experienced Texas drug possession attorney right away. Marijuana-related charges are taken very seriously by the prosecutors in Texas, so you need a highly skilled and resourceful lawyer by your side to defend your rights.
An arrest does not mean that you are guilty. Your case can be fought, and it can be won. Flood, Lewis & Associates is a team of dedicated DWI and drug possession defense attorneys who will fight tooth and nail for victory on your behalf.