The defendant, charged with criminal possession of marijuana, moved for suppression. He was stopped by police officers for speeding.
Upon approaching the vehicle, the officers testified there was a “strong odor of marijuana” emanating from the car. They asked the defendant to step out of the car and began searching it for contraband.
Five bags of marijuana were found in the bottom of an empty can of engine cleaner. Marijuana was also recovered from the glove box. They testified that the odor was not coming from the people in the car and the smell was of “unburned” marijuana.
The Nassau, New York County District Court Judge stated that even if she were to believe the officers could smell a relatively small amount of non-burning marijuana packed inside zip lock bags contained in the glove box or a closed can, she could not accept the prosecutors’ argument that smell alone was enough to justify defendant’s arrest, let alone the search of his car.
Since the search must be supported by more than reasonable suspicion, the searches conducted were unlawful, requiring suppression of the evidence and defendant’s statement.
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