Thursday, December 01, 2011

Odor of marijuana not sufficient to search shoe

Rick Kittel and KU Defender Project intern Jeff Spahr won in State v. Robert Smith, No. 103,736 (Kan. App. Sept. 30, 2011)(unpublished), obtaining a reversal of a Geary County possession with intent to sell conviction. The issue revolved around the search of a passenger in a car stopped for incorrectly registered tags. When stopped, the detective detected the odor of marijuana on the passenger, they had him get out of the car and conducted a pat-down, which revealed $370 in cash, but no weapons or drugs. The detectives handcuffed the passenger and had him go back to the patrol car and remove his shoes. The COA considered whether this search violated the Fourth Amendment:
Whether the $370, Smith's nervousness, and the odor of perfume when coupled with the odor of marijuana provide probable cause is a close question. Probable cause is judged by the totality of the circumstances and not by judging each factor in isolation. Under current Kansas law the odor of marijuana alone is not enough, and the other factors in Smith's case provide little if any further support.
Because the COA held the detectives did not have probable cause, it held the search violated the Fourth Amendment and reversed the conviction.

[Update: the state filed a PR on October 25, 2011.]

[Further update: the KSC denied the state's PR and the mandate issued on June 13, 2012.]

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