»  Probable Cause and Medical Marijuana Use: A Legal Conundrum for Vehicle Searches

Probable Cause and Medical Marijuana Use: A Legal Conundrum for Vehicle Searches

Lakeland, FL (Law Firm Newswire) August 27, 2014 - There are exceptions to police warrant requirements. In some cases, officers can search a person or his or her personal property without a warrant.

“The most common exception allows a vehicle search with probable cause. The main question here is, what kind of facts may lead to probable cause for a search for legal possession of medical cannabis?” said Thomas C. Grajek, a Lakeland criminal defense attorney. “States that have legalized some forms of marijuana possession and/or use are trying to determine when the possession of cannabis triggers probable cause for a search, and the question is becoming more difficult.”

"Probable cause" is a set of circumstances and facts that exist where there is a significant chance that an object or person to be searched is concealing evidence of a crime or other goods prohibited by law. Put another way, probable cause comes into place when law enforcement reasonably expects to find something illegal. For an automobile, the police do not require a warrant if there is good reason to believe there is something illegal in it.

Before some states legalized the use/possession of medical marijuana, if an officer smelled or saw evidence pointing to the use/possession of marijuana, a search was reasonable. Now that medical marijuana is permissible in some states, determinations are far more complex. “However, most medical marijuana statutes only allow users to carry a small quantity. If a person has too much, a medical card would not prevent prosecution,” added Grajek.

Does any evidence of marijuana still trigger probable cause? It might. And according to a California court, a valid card does not erase probable cause for a search already underway.

In People v. Waxler, police approached the defendant’s car. An officer smelled marijuana and saw a cannabis pipe on the front seat. On searching, other drugs were discovered. The defendant then produced his card. At trial, it was suggested the search was questionable because the card was produced, nullifying grounds for a search. While the man’s card did entitle him to carry a small amount of marijuana, there were still grounds to search to find out if the defendant had more drug in his possession than allowed by law as defined by his card. “In other words, the medical marijuana card could be used as a defense at trial, but it could not be used as a bar against search/arrest,” explained Grajek.

Will the increasingly commonplace use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes in states where it is legal cease to offer probable cause to search, absent other mitigating factors?

Thomas C. Grajek
206 Easton Drive, Suite 102
Lakeland, FL 33803
Phone: 863.688.4606


View Larger Map

  • Prostitution and Solicitation for a Lewd Act sting by Pasco Sheriff Nocco results in 28 arrests. Some charged are facing a $5,000.00 “civil penalty” that is currently on appeal with the 2nd District Court of Appeal.
    The Pasco County Sheriff announced the results of a four day Prostitution sting operation today that resulted in 28 arrests.  Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco stated the females were arrested after advertising on the internet.  This usually means the women posted an ad on “Backpage.com” under “Escort Services” or “Massage”.  The Lewdness/Prostitution statute has different sections depending on whether the individual was the alleged “prostitute” or the alleged “john”.  It is only the “johns”, the person seeking the services of a prostitute that are assessed an additional $5,000.00 “civil penalty” regardless of whether the person is “adjudicated guilty” or the person […]
  • Winter Haven man arrested for DUI after driving wrong way on I-4.
    The Florida Highway Patrol arrested a Winter Haven man in Polk County early this morning for DUI after he was allegedly stopped driving the wrong way on I-4.  FHP has dash cams on most of their patrol cars so part of the traffic stop was captured on video.  It appears the driver was initially spotted by another motorist who called 911 to report the alleged incident.  By the time troopers caught up with the alleged vehicle, it allegedly had turned around and was driving the correct direction, but with no headlights on. A good DUI lawyer will get copy of […]
  • Being Around Marijuana is not a Crime, but Conspiring to Commit a Prohibited Act Is
    If a person is caught smoking Marijuana with someone else, but the stash does not belong to the first person, they will not be charged with a crime. The law says that possession of marijuana is a crime, but being in the same room as the drug is not. While the distinction may seem to be vague, it may make a difference to an accused if they are able to prove they were merely in the presence of marijuana, but the drug was not theirs. It is easier yet if the person who did own the stash admits to owning […]

See other news sources publishing this article. BETA | Tags: , , , , ,



Get headlines from Law Firm Newswire sent right to your inbox.

* indicates required