Can Police Search Your Car Because It Smells Like Weed In Minnesota?
A very interesting case just made its way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and the ruling is a little surprising.
A defendant and his legal team sought to throw out evidence in a case because they believed his vehicle was wrongfully searched in 2021.
In the search, drugs and paraphernalia were found, which then led the the arrest of Adam Torgerson. Police officers said that they smelled marijuana in the car (which was illegal at the time in Minnesota). The officers said that gave them probable cause to look through the vehicle. In the search, drugs and paraphernalia were found including marijuana and methamphetamine, which then led to the arrest of Adam Torgerson.
Why was he pulled over in the first place?
A Litchfield police officer pulled over Torgerson's vehicle because of an illegally mounted light bar on the car's grill.
The smell of marijuana odor alone is not enough for probable cause and a search.
The main question that the Minnesota Supreme Court had to rule on was "is the smell of marijuana on its own enough to establish probable cause?" Or is it just one of the factors? The court ruled that on its own, it was not enough to establish probable cause to search the vehicle.
The driver showed no signs of impairment.
Torgerson wasn't driving erratically, nor was he showing signs of impairment. He also wasn't acting nervous or agitated during the traffic stop, all things that police look for.
Laws have changed, but you still can't drive high.
Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Minnesota, it's no longer illegal to have it in your possession. However, there are limits to the amount you can have, and it cannot be consumed in a vehicle.
Learn more about this unprecedented case at Minnesota Lawyer.