If a police officer pulls you over and smells the odor of burnt marijuana in the car, does that allow him to search the driver?

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If a police officer pulls you over and smells the odor of burnt marijuana in the car, does that allow him to search the driver?

Asked on June 20, 2012 under Criminal Law, Arizona

Answers:

Anne Brady / Law Office of Anne Brady

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The case law in Arizona indicates that the smell of marijuana alone is not enough to justify an actual search of the driver.  It may provide reasonable suspicion justifying a brief pat-down or frisk.  This is sometimes known as a Terry frisk, from the U.S. Supreme Court case Terry v. Ohio.  This pat down is to check for weapons and anything that by its shape is clearly contraband.  However, the smell of marijuana combined with other evidence of illegal activity may provide probable cause justifying a search of the driver.  See State v. Valenzuala, 121 Airz. 274.


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