Can police search your car after smelling cannabis?
It’s important for drivers to know that, since the legalization of hemp, Florida has taken steps to stop the practice of so-called “sniff and search.”
What has changed?
Previously, police officers relied on marijuana odor as reasonable suspicion for searches and potential arrests. However, when hemp was legalized statewide, state attorneys in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River Counties notified police departments that the odor of cannabis alone no longer qualifies as probable cause for a search. Additionally, trained K9s (drug dogs) are not able to distinguish between the smell of hemp and the smell of marijuana.
Note: Hemp is a major component of cannabidiol (CBD), which is used for a variety of medicinal and dietary purposes.
“The odor of marijuana ‒ by itself ‒ is no longer probable cause for a search,” one of the state attorneys emailed to police departments. “This is true whether the odor is detected by an officer, or by a dog.”
Further implications of the policy change will be seen for years to come. For now, it’s crucial that drivers know that the smell of cannabis alone is not enough for police to search a vehicle.
If you are arrested and charged with a drug offense after a traffic stop, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Depending on the facts of the case, there may be an opportunity to challenge the legality of the traffic stop and the ensuing search and seizure.