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Illinois Supreme Court to Decide the Issue of Whether the Smell of Marijuana is Sufficient Cause to Conduct a Warrantless Search

Although the recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Illinois, people who ingest marijuana must nonetheless do so responsibly. Thus, people who drive after smoking or ingesting marijuana may be charged with DUI if they are too impaired to operate a vehicle safely. The police cannot legally stop a person for suspicion of DUI or any other crime unless they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person is intoxicated. Recently, the question arose as to whether the smell of marijuana emanating from a vehicle is sufficient cause for the police to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle, now that the use of marijuana is legal. The Illinois Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on the issue, and an answer should be forthcoming in the near future. If you are charged with a DUI due to the use of marijuana, it is advisable to consult a proficient Illinois DUI attorney regarding your case.

The Illinois Case on Appeal  

It is reported that the stop and search that was conducted by an Illinois officer occurred prior to the legalization of marijuana. The officer allegedly smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle, and when he walked up to the vehicle saw a bud of marijuana in the backseat. Thus, the officer believed he had probable cause to search the vehicle. During the search, the officer did not find marijuana but found crack cocaine, which led to the defendant being charged with possession. The defendant’s attorney argued that the smell of marijuana is not sufficient grounds to believe a crime is being committed, and therefore, the police officer lacked probable cause to search the defendant’s car. Thus, the issue before the court is, now that the use of marijuana is legal, whether an officer has probable cause to search a person’s vehicle when the smell of marijuana is coming from the vehicle.

Laws Regarding Warrantless Searches and Marijuana Throughout the Country

Other states have grappled with the subject issue as well. In Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Massachusetts, the courts have ruled that the smell of marijuana, in and of itself, does not provide an officer with probable cause to search a vehicle, as it no longer indicates a person is committing a criminal act. Conversely, in Maryland, the courts have ruled that a search conducted based on the smell of marijuana is permitted because marijuana is contraband. The Maryland court stated that simply because the use of marijuana was decriminalized, it did not mean that the use was necessarily legal, as most people did not have the right to use marijuana at that time. Notably, Maryland and Pennsylvania both permit the use of medicinal marijuana but arrived at different conclusions on the same issue.

Discuss Your Charges with an Assertive DUI Attorney

If you live in Illinois and are charged with a marijuana-related DUI, it is prudent to discuss your charges and available defenses with an assertive DUI attorney. Attorney Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC, is adept at handling DUI cases, and if you retain him, he will fight to help you protect your rights. Mr. Harvatin can be contacted through the form online or at 217.525.0520 to set up a conference.