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Search / Search Warrant Archives

Can a Police Officer Search My Car Because He Smells Marijuana?

In Ohio, the smell of Marijuana is probable cause for a search of a vehicle. The Ohio Supreme Court in State v. Moore (2000), 90 Ohio St.3d 47 held that the smell of marijuana alone, by a person qualified to recognize the odor, is sufficient to establish probable cause to search a motor vehicle and the driver. If you are pulled over and an officer indicates that he smells marijuana he has the legal right to search your entire vehicle and you. He may detain you while the search is being conducted.

Do I Have to Let the Police Search My Car If I Am Pulled Over?

Just because you are pulled over does not automatically give police the right to search your vehicle. Law enforcement may only search a vehicle, home, person or thing if they have: (1) a search warrant, (2) consent, or (3) probable cause (a reasonable ground for belief of guilt). The mere fact that you are pulled over for a traffic violation is not probable cause to search your car. An officer would need additional "justification" or probable cause to search. Because of this, officers often ask for your permission or consent to search. However, you never have to let the police search your car or home just because they ask. All persons have an absolute constitutional right to say NO if they are asked to consent to a search, and saying no is not, in and of itself, grounds for a search. Law enforcement usually requests consent to search because it eliminates the need for a warrant or probable cause. Obtaining a warrant is a time-consuming process and probable cause often does not exist. 

Should I Consent to a Search of My Car or Home?

The short answer is "no." If your neighbor or the mailman knocked on your door and asked to look through every drawer and inmate area of your home, you would think he was crazy and slam the door shut. Likewise, if a BMV agent asked to search your car when you went to renew your license, you would refuse. Why then would you voluntarily let a police officer search your home or car just because he asked?

The Police Had a Warrant to Search My Home, Was it Valid?

Most searches conducted with a search warrant are valid. There are, however, instances in which a search even though conducted with a warrant may be unconstitutional. The most effective way to challenge the legality of a search warrant is to question the truth of the underlying facts contained in the affidavit submitted by the law enforcement officer who requested the warrant. Some searches may also be deemed unconstitutional because law enforcement did not follow the terms of the warrant. This may include failure to search the correct location, failure to search at the correct date or time, or the search was beyond the scope permissible by the warrant. Challenging the validity of search warrant is a very technical and you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to review the facts of your case and determine if the warrant search was legal.

The Police Searched My Home or Car, Was it Legal?

Every day police search vehicles and residences. This evidence gathering plays a significant role in the criminal justice system. However, there are rules that establish how, when, where, and why police may conduct searches of vehicles, residences, and even persons. In the event law enforcement violates one of the rules or a person's constitutional rights in the process, there are consequences.

What is a Search Warrant?

A search warrant is a written court order signed by a judge that authorizes a law enforcement officer to search a home, car, container, or person. In order to obtain a warrant, a law enforcement officer submits a request with an affidavit to a judge. In the affidavit the officer states the facts he believes justifies probable cause for the judge to issue the warrant. The judge reviews the officer's request and affidavit, and if he believes probable cause exists to justify a search, then the judge will issue a search warrant.

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