Sunday, October 14, 2012

Federal Judge Tosses Search In Spite of Strong Odor of Marijuana

A federal judge in Chicago has suppressed the search of a vehicle in spite of the officer's testimony that in addition to seeing a jar with a green leafy substance inside the vehicle, he also noticed a strong odor of marijuana. In spite of this evidence, the federal judge presiding over the Federal drug case ruled that the police did not have sufficient probable cause to search the vehicle and excluded the evidence recovered during that search, namely, 10 grams of marijuana inside a mason jar, $8,600 in cash and what the government was alleging were drug recipes and a drug ledger.  The underlying drug case against the defendant is still proceeding to trial. The government still has plenty of evidence to support their case.  They have the statement of the defendant, the testimony of a co-defendant, surveillance of the drug making operation, receipts of chemicals and equipment needed to grow and make the illegal drugs, recipes that detail how to carry out the drug manufacturing and emails sent to a co-defendant who didn't realize he was communicating with an undercover federal agent.  What is interesting about this case is how the attorney for the defendant was able to exclude the evidence recovered during the search of the vehicle.  After the police officer curbed the defendant's vehicle, he noticed a mason jar inside the vehicle that contained a "green leafy substance."  That jar has since been lost by the police, so the judge ruled that the jar could not be used to justify the search of the vehicle. The officer then testified that he noticed the strong odor of marijuana and proceeded to search the vehicle. The defendant had been inside a facility that was growing marijuana plants. The government was alleging that the strong odor of marijuana came from the clothes of the defendant. A federal agent even testified that he had been inside the same facility and that the strong odor of marijuana remained on his clothing after he left. The attorney for the defendant hired an expert witness who testified that in order for that strong odor of marijuana to be present, the marijuana plants must be a certain age and at a certain stage of growth to cause the smell to remain on clothing. The expert reviewed a video taken of the marijuana operation and testified that the plants were too young to cause the type of odor that the government was alleging was present at the time of the stop of the defendant's vehicle.  As a result, the judge ruled that the police did not have sufficient probable cause to search the vehicle and excluded all the evidence recovered during that search.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

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