Michigan Court Permits Search of Vehicle Based on Odor of Marijuana, Despite Defendant’s Medical Marijuana Card

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Michigan gun case in which the defendant challenged the officer’s search of his vehicle. Ultimately, the court concluded that the search was permissible based on the fact that the officer noticed a strong smell of marijuana, even though the defendant had a valid medical marijuana card.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer stopped the defendant for speeding. When the officer approached the defendant’s car, he noticed a strong odor of fresh marijuana, indicating to the officer that there was a “good quantity” of marijuana in the vehicle.

Initially, the defendant denied having marijuana. However, after further conversation, the defendant admitted that he had harvested marijuana earlier that day. The defendant claimed to have a medical marijuana caregiver card, but the officer testified he could not recall if the defendant provided the card at the time. The officer was able to confirm that the defendant had a medical marijuana caregiver card.

The officer then searched the defendant’s vehicle. The officer claimed the search was to ensure that the defendant was within the regulated amount of marijuana. Immediately before searching the defendant’s car, the officer asked the defendant if there were any weapons in the car, and that defendant responded that there was a pistol. The defendant did not have a valid license. Upon searching the vehicle, the officer found unprescribed medication.

The defendant argued that the search of his vehicle was not justified, arguing that the smell of marijuana could not justify the search because he had a medical marijuana caregiver card. The court disagreed, denying the defendant’s motion, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the lower court’s decision to deny the motion was affirmed. The court held that the officer had probable cause to believe that the defendant had more than the permitted amount of marijuana. In coming to this conclusion, the court relied on the fact that the officer recalled a “strong odor” of marijuana that would be consistent with a large quantity of marijuana. Additionally, the court noted out that the defendant initially lied to the officer about having any marijuana in the car. The court explained that this, too, provided a basis for the officer to question whether the defendant was in compliance with the law.

Have You Been Arrested After Police Searched Your Vehicle?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a Michigan drug offense, contact the dedicated criminal defense attorneys at Michigan Defense Law. At Michigan Defense Law, we represent clients who are facing all types of serious Michigan felony and misdemeanor offenses, including gun possession, domestic violence allegations, and theft crimes. To learn more about how we can help you defend your freedom against the charges you are facing, call 248-451-2200 to schedule a free consultation today. To help protect our clients and staff, our physical offices are closed during the COVID-19 crisis; however, we continue to provide the same zealous representation by working remotely.

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