Drug Attorney Explains Issues With Marijuana & Search Laws
“Marijuana and the freedom to search.” In the United States and in Florida, that phrase should be concerning to all Americans. The current state of the law in the United States allows law enforcement free access to search your vehicle if a canine alerts to marijuana. The alert by the canine gives the officer reasonable suspicion to search your vehicle without a warrant; this can happen even when the vehicle is unoccupied and has no sign of a driver or occupant nearby. Any drug attorney can admit that prosecuting and convicting a person for possession of marijuana that’s located in a parked, unoccupied vehicle is extremely difficult because you have a limited ability to link the marijuana to the owner of the vehicle.
In this situation, the prosecutor would try to prove that the owner of the vehicle constructively possessed marijuana. In order to prove constructive possession, the prosecutor must show the owner had dominion, control and knowledge of the marijuana. The problem is that without an occupant you can’t prove dominion, control or knowledge, unless the person admits to “owning” the marijuana.
Recently, a disturbing article was published in the Tampa Bay Times pertaining to this particular situation. A car was parked in Ybor City, and the police popped the car lock after a canine alerted to marijuana. The Tampa Police Department searched the vehicle and found no marijuana. The article fails to mention if the officer who searched the vehicle smelled the odor of marijuana himself. Now, the owner has damage to his vehicle and is left knowing that it was unsafe even from law enforcement. Whether or not the Tampa Police Department repaired his vehicle is still unknown.
An experienced drug attorney will agree – breaking into and searching a vehicle based on a police dog’s alert to marijuana, without the owner of the vehicle present or a search warrant in-hand, is a policy the Tampa Police Department should rethink. Whether this incident leads to a change in policy is unknown, but as citizens of the Tampa Bay Area, we all need to be aware that this type of behavior is occurring. When no marijuana or illegal substances are found in a vehicle, we should reevaluate whether this type of invasive police procedure is what our country is all about.
There’s a very good chance that marijuana will be legal in Florida in the next several years. In the meantime, if you are found in possession of marijuana, you will still face criminal prosecution by the State of Florida. If you’ve been charged with possession of marijuana and in need of legal representation, call The Rooth Law Group for a free consultation with a dedicated drug attorney.