23 Mar Marijuana and Search Warrants – What Can Cops Do?
Many people are under the impression that police officers must obtain search warrants to legally search your vehicle. While that is definitely correct, especially under the protection of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, there are exceptions to this protocol. The most common instances for these exceptions arise in conjunction with marijuana possession/usage in a person’s vehicle.
Does a police officer have the right to search my vehicle?
A police officer definitely has the right to search your vehicle. Most of the time, they will require a warrant, but there are times when they will have the right to search your vehicle without one. A police officer can always search the immediate grab area of your car, for example, to establish officer safety.
When can a police officer search my vehicle without a warrant?
A police officer can search your vehicle without a warrant if he has evidentiary probable cause. That means that if he has evidence or enough probable cause that your vehicle needs to be searched, he can—and will—search it.
So, for instance, if a police officer pulls you over and sees a bag of marijuana on your passenger seat, and if he can smell marijuana coming out of your vehicle when you roll down the window, he can search your vehicle because he has probable cause.
There is enough evidence to allow him to search without a warrant. He may also search your vehicle as incident to a lawful arrest. If you’ve been arrested for a marijuana DUI, the officer may search your vehicle for more marijuana.
Another instance in which an officer can search without a warrant is if you give him consent. The consent must be voluntary, and you must be conscious enough to give it, meaning the officer cannot threaten you and you cannot be impaired in any way (no drinking and driving!).
What happens if a police officer needs a warrant?
If a police officer does not have enough probable cause, has not arrested you, or you have not given them consent, then a warrant is needed. Police officers can get a warrant very quickly (sometimes within 15-30 minutes), and here’s how they do it:
- First, they draft a Notice of Probable cause on the computer in their vehicle.
- Then they email it to an on-call judge (who has been assigned to be on-call for 24 hours for this very reason).
- The judge can then read it, sign it, and return it through email within 15-30 minutes.
So, while it is true that police officers need warrants to legally search your personal property, you should still keep these exceptions in mind.
If you feel as if your property or your vehicle has been wrongly searched, give us a call here at Allan and Easton, and we will help you!