By Theodore W. Ramage
O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson
In this blog post, I briefly discuss the landmark Minnesota Supreme Court case, State v. Torgerson, which has redefined the parameters for what constitutes probable cause in warrantless vehicle searches involving the odor of marijuana.
Minnesota Supreme Court Landmark Ruling:
Odor of Marijuana Insufficient for Probable Cause in Vehicle Searches
If you’ve recently been arrested because a police officer claimed the smell of marijuana gave them probable cause to search your vehicle, the search could very well be thrown out in court. The Minnesota Supreme Court has made a landmark ruling when it comes to what counts as a legal police search in the case of State v. Torgerson. Here’s what you need to know.
The U.S. and Minnesota Constitutions guard you against unlawful searches and seizures. Typically, police need a warrant to conduct a search, unless they have probable cause to believe they will find evidence of a crime. Before Torgerson, the mere smell of marijuana was often enough to establish probable cause. Not anymore.
Probable cause is the middle ground that police must reach to search your vehicle without a warrant. This term can be a bit murky, but what’s clear after Torgerson is that the smell of marijuana alone won’t cut it. If you’re pulled over, and an officer claims the smell of marijuana as the reason for a search, remember that it’s now only a piece of the puzzle. There needs to be additional evidence or circumstances, aside from the smell, that indicate you may be involved in illegal activity. Additional circumstances, like visible illegal contraband or inconsistent stories between passengers, are needed to reach that standard of probable cause.
If you’ve been arrested and your vehicle was searched based solely on the smell of marijuana, this recent ruling is a game-changer for your case. The law is ever-changing, and staying informed is your first line of defense. This is a huge win for individual liberties, and it could be crucial for your case. It’s essential that you seek legal advice to understand how this ruling can potentially impact your charges.
Let Our Fargo Criminal Defense Attorneys Help You
If you are charged with a marijuana-related offense, contact us immediately. Our criminal defense attorneys will provide you with the finest legal representation and guidance. Contact us at 701-235-8000.