This is a common question I receive from my clients. The story often begins with the police stopping my client’s vehicle for speeding, marked lanes or failing to use a turn signal. The officers walks to my client’s vehicle and asks to conduct a search of their vehicle. My client often says “yes,” believing they cannot say no, and gives the police consent to search their vehicle. The officer then finds marijuana or drug paraphernalia in their vehicle. What would happen, however, if my client had said “no”?
Consent to Search
If law enforcement asks to search your vehicle and you say yes, you have given consent to search your vehicle. Whatever the officer finds, whether it be marijuana or paraphernalia, can now be used against you in court because you gave consent to search.
Probable Cause to Search Your Vehicle?
However, if you say no to the police and refuse to give consent to search, law enforcement may still be able to search your car under certain circumstances. The police are permitted to search your vehicle without a warrant and without your permission if they develop probable cause to believe that your vehicle has marijuana or other illegal drugs in it and “exigent circumstances” necessitate an immediate search or seizure. See State v. Walker.
Common examples where law enforcement may have probable cause to search your vehicle for marijuana or other drugs without a warrant and without your consent after a lawful traffic stop include:
- A trained law enforcement officer smells marijuana emanating from a vehicle. This is called the “plain smell doctrine” in Ohio. See State v. Moore.
- The marijuana, drug or paraphernalia is in plain view of law enforcement when he or she approaches your vehicle.
- If you are arrested for OVI and your vehicle has to be impounded, law enforcement is permitted to conduct an “inventory search” of your vehicle prior to its impoundment.
If you provide consent to search, law enforcement does not have to develop probable cause to search. Therefore, it is never advisable to consent to search your vehicle. You are essentially doing law enforcement’s job for them and providing evidence that can be used against you at trial. Moreover, you make it difficult for your attorney to argue that the evidence cannot be used against you.
If you are pulled over for a traffic offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio and are charged with possession of marijuana or other controlled substance, or for drug paraphernalia, contact an Ohio marijuana search and seizure attorney to discuss your case. If the stop was unlawful or no probable cause existed to search your vehicle, there may be an opportunity to challenge the charges and have your case dismissed.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Marijuana Attorney
If you have been charged with a marijuana offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC to discuss your case. An experienced and knowledgeable drug defense lawyer in Columbus and Delaware, Ohio can help you fight the charge and achieve the best possible outcome. Call Johnson Legal, LLC at (614) 987-0192) or send an email to schedule a consultation with Attorney David Johnson.