Marijuana Scents and Probable Cause

A recent internet forum posted by a marijuana possession defendant highlighted some of the key issues being faced by others on trial for this crime in Rhode Island.

The question: 

“My husband opened the door when they knocked (they didn’t announce that they were the police or he wouldn’t have opened the door) and walked out on the porch. He closed the door behind him denying them entry into the home and they said they smelled pot and that he wasn’t allowed to close the door. He was cornered between them and the door, with nowhere to go – and them basically forcing their way in. They threatened to take my children if I didn’t give them the pot that was not visible. Just the smell still. They threatened to shoot my husband and me in front of our 4 year-old daughter for no reason. Gave me a uniform traffic ticket for simple possession without being in a vehicle. Is the smell probable cause to bust in my house with no warrant and take my stuff and threaten me?”

Source: AVVO

Here are some answers to the above questions:

  • New updates to the legality of marijuana use will affect how each case is handled. To answer the inquirer’s question on whether law enforcement had the right to enter a property without a search warrant, the answer is that it all depends. Each locale has its own sets of rules regarding search and seizure laws. As such, it’s first recommended that those arrested consult with a local defense attorney.
  • Police are only required to identify themselves when a search warrant is in order.
  • The alleged threat by police officers is unlawful, but there’s no proof of this.
  • In the example above, the police did not gain entry without permission, but rather the owners were lured to answer for further investigation.
  • In regards to the probable cause being scent, police are not required to turn a blind eye to suspicious behavior. Some of the questions to be answered to support the probable cause of odor include:
  1. Was there bias involved?
  2. Was the arrest made in an area known for marijuana possession or drug trafficking?
  3. Were the defendants behaving defensively?

A criminal defense attorney who has firsthand knowledge of Rhode Island search and seizure laws would need to review the case in its entirety in order to present the best defense.

Penalties for Marijuana Possession in Rhode Island

Given the recent bill approved to decriminalize less than one ounce of marijuana possession, those found in this circumstance will be served a citation with charges of $150. Anything over this limit would leave room for misdemeanor charges.

If you’re facing criminal charges for marijuana possession, contact the RI criminal defense attorneys at 401-272-4001.

Other Helpful Resources

Refer to the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island to read the declaration of certain constitutional rights and principles as it relates to search and seizure rules.