Court: Smell of unburned pot by itself no longer good enough reason to search somebody's car without a warrant

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that police with a nose for marijuana can no longer search a person or his car if the smell of unburned pot is the only evidence the person might be holding more than an ounce of the drug.

In rulings stemming from cases in Dorchester and Pittsfield, the state's highest court said the smell of burned marijuana was no longer enough to detain somebody. In the Pittsfield case, the court ruled:

Here, where police searched the defendant's vehicle after seizing a "fat bag" of marijuana from the glove compartment, and after perceiving an odor of unburnt marijuana, we hold that such odor, standing alone, does not provide probable cause to search an automobile.

The decision is not necessarily good news for Matthew Overmyer, however: The court did not dismiss the charges against him, saying it did not have enough evidence to know whether police had other reasons to suspect him of having too much marijuana in his car, since his case had not yet gone to trial.

In the Dorchester case, the court ruled prosecutors could not use the Ecstasy and ammunition found in Anthony Craan's car against him because the state troopers conducting the 2010 sobriety checkpoint at which he was pulled over on Gallivan Boulevard had no probable cause to search his car except the smell of unburned marijuana a trooper detected when Craan rolled down his window.

Craan, the court said, showed no signs of impairment and no evidence of being up to no good. The court rejected prosecutors' arguments that the troopers had an obligation to search Craan's car to keep him from toking while driving, saying the state had presented no evidence that Craan intended to light up as soon as he drove off.

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    Comments

    So next logical step

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    is to ban breathalyzing people on the sole bases the "smell" like alcohol.

    Nope

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    The equivalent case would be if a cop pulled you over and smelled alcohol because you'd just bought a bottle of vodka and somehow it broke on the way home.

    Smelling alcohol on somebody's breath is different.

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    Bad news for big press cases

    DA's love holding press conferences when they bust someone transporting pounds of pot in a vehicle. Now they will face appeals and a more difficult future making cases.

    Good news for gun-toting thugs

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    It's a well-known fact that many drug dealers are (illegally) armed - thanks to this idiotic decision, none of the gun charges are going to stick.

    Not exactly

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    Your prejudice aside, all this means is that police will need another reason to conduct a search. Smelling unburnt pot can't be used any more, but there are plenty of others that they can use. Plus, most of the people that you're referring to don't usually get a trial, they plead guilty for a reduced sentence. Without a trial any and all forms of search seizure never get reviewed.

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