Smell of Marijuana Establishes Probable Cause

The Federal Courts all across the land seem to agree that if a cop smells marijuana in your car, that means there is probable cause to search the whole car – even the trunk! In a recent opinion, Federal Court Judge Mary McLaughlin, who sits in Philadelphia, upheld the search of a man’s truck by a Maryland State Trooper solely on the basis that the Trooper smelled marijuana. In the trunk was found a boatload of cocaine, and the driver is now looking at a long sentence.

Luckily, for those prosecuted in Philadelphia or other state courts, the protection of the Pennsylvania Constitution applies. Our state constitution is a good deal stronger than the U.S. Constitution, and Philadelphians should be proud that the right of privacy is still strong here. Philadelphia police are subject to a state requirement of a warrant or exigent circumstances. And Philadelphia judges know that the police often invent the presence of the smell of marijuana in order to perform illegal intrusions into our liberties.

The Tenth Circuit is the only federal court that agrees with Pennsylvania. So, the moral of the story is that if you’re going to smoke a joint east of the Rocky Mountains, you better do it in Pennsylvania. Better yet – stay in your home.

You can read Judge McLaughlin’s opinion here:

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