Fourth Amendment

MA Court: Marijuana Scent Insufficient Cause for Car Search

Cops were getting nosy

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In a series of three rulings issued Friday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court cracked down on police who have been using evidence of marijuana possession as a pretext to search automobiles. Just two years ago, justices handed down the Cruz decision making it clear that automobile searches could not be conducted on the basis of finding marijuana (view ruling), but police have continued the practice.

Antonio L. Pacheco found this out as he sat in a gray sedan that was parked in a handicapped spot with four friends. A state trooper approached, noticing the fogged windows. He knocked on the window, smelling marijuana as soon as the window was lowered.

The trooper then went and searched the vehicle, finding a small bag with less than one ounce of pot on the floor mat behind the passenger seat. Nothing else was found in the vehicle's interior, so the trooper opened the trunk and began going through its contents. He found a black backpack that contained a semiautomatic handgun and no other items of interest. Pacheco admitted he had the gun for self-protection, but he did not have the "firearms identification card" Massachusetts requires.