The Role Of Smell In Marijuana Searches

The smell of marijuana plays an important role in many searches for the drug. This importance was recently highlighted in a case that occurred in the Denton area. Child Protective Services was contacted after a mother left her 3-year-old child inside a vehicle for more than ten minutes. After firefighters opened the car door to rescue the child, law enforcement searched the vehicle based on the smell of marijuana. Even though two small joints (referred to as “roaches”) were found inside the vehicle, the child was reported to be okay and no arrests were made.

Probable Cause in the State of Texas

The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution requires law enforcement to find a certain amount of evidence before searching the property of a person. Probable cause, however, in the state of Texas is an indefinite standard. Law enforcement in the state of Texas is able to find probable cause if one of several situations is present. These situations include if it is reasonable to believe that a crime was committed by the person to be arrested, there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed at the location to be searched, or the location that law enforcement wants to search contains evidence related to the crime.

Texas Motor Vehicle Searches for Marijuana

Courts have often held that the smell of marijuana in a motor vehicle is often able to satisfy the requirement or probable cause. This smell is not required to be extremely fragrant. Because the smell alone satisfies probable cause requirements, law enforcement in these situations is not required to obtain a warrant. In many cases, law enforcement will initially stop a vehicle for a different reason than the detection of marijuana. In most cases, a motor vehicle operator will be found to have committed a traffic violation. In the case previously mentioned, law enforcement was focusing on rescuing the three-year-old child from the vehicle when the smell of marijuana was detected.

Searches of a Person’s Home for Marijuana in Texas

For 4th Amendment reasons, a person’s motor vehicle is very different than their home. In many situations, a warrant must be obtained prior to law enforcement’s search of a person’s residence. In some cases, however, law enforcement is known to violate 4th Amendment rules and search a person’s home when there is not enough evidence to satisfy probable cause.

Contact a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney

Even though there have many developments concerning the use of marijuana in the last few years, it is still important for individuals to understand that marijuana is still illegal in the state of Texas. Each year, there are a large number of individuals in the state of Texas who face marijuana-related charges due to searches that arose based on the smell of marijuana. If you or a loved one faces a charge attached to a marijuana-related offense, contact the Wheeler Law Office to obtain the legal representation that you need.

(image courtesy of Dominik Martin)