Can a police officer order a passenger out of a car because the officer finds a heavy scent of marijuana from the passenger?

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Can a police officer order a passenger out of a car because the officer finds a heavy scent of marijuana from the passenger?

Our car was stopped for a minor traffic violation. An officer ordered me out of the passenger seat to find half ounce of marijuana. There was no search warrant or probable cause that I was committing a crime.

Asked on January 20, 2012 under Criminal Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The minor traffic violation provided probable cause to stop the vehicle.  When the police smelled marijuana, the vehicle could be searched without a warrant and the passenger could be ordered out of the vehicle.  A vehicle can be searched without a search warrant because by the time the police obtain a search warrant, the vehicle would be gone and any contraband may have been disposed of.

If you were arrested, the police could search you and areas within your reach which is a search incident to an arrest without a search warrant.

If you were arrested or the vehicle was impounded, the police could search the vehicle as an inventory search without a search warrant.


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