Is the smell of marijuana probable cause in Maryland?

Many drug arrests happen when officers pull over Maryland drivers for routine traffic stops. One moment, you are facing a speeding ticket and the next you are in cuffs for drug possession. As the police search your person, you may wonder if it is legal. Do they have a right to the search?


Most people know the rules set down by the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects you in areas where you have an expectation of privacy. Cops cannot perform unreasonable searches or seizures. What happens if the cop smells marijuana?


You may think that this is probable cause. In fact, a cop may use the smell as a way to talk you into agreeing to a search. The Baltimore Sun reported on a recent appeals court decision that rules an officer cannot search any person in a vehicle due to the smell of marijuana. Now, this does not mean that a cop cannot search the vehicle. Cops may still have a right to search the car. However, unless the cop finds evidence of the crime, he or she cannot search a person.


The idea behind this ruling is that a person has a higher expectation of privacy to his or her person than he does or she does to his or her vehicle. In Maryland, the legislature decriminalized marijuana possession under 10 grams. If you have 10 grams or less in a vehicle, then there is not a criminal charge and instead you face civil charges.


None of the above information is to be used as legal advice. It is for educational purposes only.



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