The Smell of Privacy
This week the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the odor of burning marijuana is not sufficient reason for a police officer to order a motorist out of his car. The Court noted that Question 2, a 2008 ballot initiative approved by 65 percent of voters, made possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a citable offense (similar to a traffic violation) rather than a misdemeanor. "We conclude that, to order a passenger in a stopped vehicle to exit based merely on suspicion of an offense, that offense must be criminal," Chief Justice Roderick Ireland wrote for the majority. "Ferreting out decriminalized conduct with the same fervor associated with the pursuit of serious criminal conduct is neither desired by the public nor in accord with the plain language of the statute."
Here is CBS Boston's summary of the case:
The ruling came in the case of Benjamin Cruz, a passenger in a stopped car, after a Boston police officer, smelling burnt marijuana inside, ordered Cruz to get out.
The court found that police permissibly approached the car because it was parked in front of a fire hydrant but did not have probable cause to order Cruz to step out.
As Cruz was getting out, police officers asked him if he had anything on him. They say Cruz replied that he had "a little rock for myself" in his pocket.
Police say they seized crack cocaine from Cruz and charged him with drug possession with intent to distribute and committing a controlled substances violation in a school zone.
The Supreme Judicial Court, in its ruling, upheld a lower court ruling suppressing the man's statement to police.
Reason coverage of Question 2 here.
[Thanks to jcalton for the tip.]