Is the odor of cannabis enough cause for a police officer to search a vehicle? A precedent-setting decision from Colorado says no - at least in a legal state.
As The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, Colorado reports, a February 2015 traffic stop led to charges (and an eventual conviction) of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance for resident Kevin McKnight.
The convictions were based on a search of McKnight’s vehicle by Sgt. Cortland Folks’ drug-detection dog, Kilo. The dog was trained to detect several drugs, including cocaine, meth and marijuana, and the search eventually yielded a glass pipe typically used to smoke meth.
But an appeals court ruled that, as Kilo was unable to communicate to officers exactly what he was sniffing (as he is, you know, a dog), the officers didn’t have cause to search the car:
“Because Amendment 64 legalized possession for personal use of one ounce or less of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older in Colorado, it is no longer accurate to say, at least as a matter of state law, that an alert by a dog which can detect marijuana - but not specific amounts - can reveal only the presence of ‘contraband,’” wrote Judge Daniel Dailey.
Moreover, "because a dog sniff of a vehicle could infringe upon a legitimate expectation of privacy solely under state law, that dog sniff should now be considered a ‘search’ for purposes of (the amendment) where the occupants are 21 years or older,” said the court.
As legalization continues to spread across the United States, expect to see other cases like this spring up.
h/t Fox News