The police pull you over for speeding. Or for not using your turn signal. Or for marked lanes. Or for any other small traffic violation. The officer walks up to your car and asks to search the car. You say no. In Ohio, can he search it anyway?
If the police ask to search your car and you say yes, this is called consent. Whatever marijuana or paraphernalia they find after your consent to search can be used to charge you with a crime.
Even if you say no, though, the police could still search your car under certain circumstances.
The police can search your car without a warrant and without your permission when there is probable cause to believe that the car has marijuana or other illegal drugs and that “exigent circumstances” require an immediate search necessitate a search or seizure. State v. Walker, 11th Dist. Lake No. 2009-L-155, 2010-Ohio-4695, ¶26.
Examples of cases where the police can have probable cause to search your car for marijuana without a warrant (even if you say no) after a lawful traffic stop include:
- A trained officer smells marijuana coming from the car (Walker, 2012-Ohio-3303, ¶32).
- The trained officer smells marijuana coming from the driver. (State v. Moore, 90 Ohio St.3d 47, 50, 2000-Ohio-10 (the “plain smell doctrine” –>”if the smell of marijuana, as detected by a person who is qualified to recognize the odor, is the sole circumstance, this is sufficient to establish probable cause.”)
- The marijuana (or pipe or other paraphernalia) is in plain view by the officer when he walks up to your car.
- If you are arrested for OVI, obstruction of official business or other misdemeanor, the police can search your car in what is called an “inventory search” before they take the car to the impound.
If you were pulled over for a minor traffic offense and you were charged with marijuana possession, talk to an Ohio marijuana search and seizure attorney about the specifics of your case.
If the stop was unlawful or there was no probable cause to search your car, there may be an opportunity to fight the marijuana charge.