A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that a search of a healthcare marijuana patient’s vehicle primarily based on the scent of cannabis is illegal. In an opinion filed earlier this month, Lehigh County Judge Maria Dantos excluded proof in a drugs and weapons case, dealing a blow to prosecutors.
The ruling stems from the case of Timothy Barr, 27, a registered healthcare marijuana patient with the state of Pennsylvania. In November, Barr, a resident of Germansville, Pennsylvania, was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his wife when they have been pulled more than by state troopers for a visitors violation. When the law enforcement officers stated that they smelled marijuana in the automobile, Barr showed them his healthcare marijuana identification card issued by the state.
Having said that, the troopers stated that they nevertheless had a legal appropriate to search the vehicle and located a smaller quantity of cannabis and cannabis residue. They also located a loaded handgun beneath the driver’s seat. Due to a preceding criminal conviction, Barr is prohibited from possessing a firearm.
In the opinion in the case filed by Dantos, the judge wrote that it was “illogical, impractical and unreasonable” for the troopers to suspect that a crime had been committed just after Barr showed them his healthcare marijuana identification card.
“The smell of marijuana is no longer per se indicative of a crime,” Dantos wrote.
Cops Do not Know the Law
The case also reveals how woefully uninformed some law enforcement officers are about the laws they are charged with enforcing. 1 trooper in the case testified that she believed healthcare marijuana had no smell although the other stated that she believed dried cannabis was nevertheless illegal beneath the state’s healthcare marijuana regulations. Cannabis flower has been offered for legal buy at licensed healthcare marijuana dispensaries considering that August, 2018.
The troopers had located significantly less than a gram of cannabis in an unmarked bag that was in a pill bottle and charged Barr with possession, regardless of his status as a healthcare marijuana patient.
“Pennsylvania legislators did not contemplate that folks with legal healthcare marijuana cards would be arrested and prosecuted for possession of marijuana in a package that is not clearly marked with a dispensary name on it. Such actions are merely indicates of hampering the legalization of marijuana for healthcare purposes,” Dantos wrote in her opinion.
Dantos also wrote that the case illustrated a “clear disconnect involving the healthcare neighborhood and the law enforcement neighborhood.” The judge dismissed the marijuana possession charge and ruled that the handgun found in the vehicle was inadmissible as proof in the weapons case.
District Lawyer Jim Martin stated that his workplace is reviewing the judge’s ruling and transcripts from court hearings in the case. Prosecutors have not however decided if they will appeal Dantos’ ruling to the Superior Court, proceed without the need of the excluded proof, or drop the case.
Criminal defense lawyer Joshua Karoly stated that the ruling could lead to an finish of a procedural rule that makes it possible for law enforcement officers to conduct searches of automobiles primarily based solely on the odor of cannabis.
“This case will place a spotlight on the plain smell doctrine in Pennsylvania which police use far as well frequently to invade citizens’ privacy,” Karoly stated.