California Court Finds Small Amount of Marijuana on Defendant Did Not Justify Search of Car

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California drug possession case discussing whether or not the police officers’ search of the defendant’s car was justified. The court eventually concluded that the search lacked probable cause, and held that any evidence recovered as a result of that search must be suppressed.

According to the opinion of the court, police officers pulled over the defendant, who was driving a gold Cadillac. The defendant, who had a front-seat passenger with him, pulled over and explained that he did not have his license. The officers asked him to step out, and they patted him down to confirm that he did not have any identification on him. During the pat-down, they discovered a small amount of marijuana. The defendant explained that he delivered medical marijuana.

Officers placed the defendant in handcuffs and turned their attention to the passenger. The passenger was placed in handcuffs and told that he would be free to go if a search of the car did not reveal anything illegal. At this point, both the defendant and the passenger were out of the car, and the officers conducted a thorough search of the car. Ultimately, they discovered a backpack in the truck containing a gun and a large sum of money. The police then obtained a key to the locked glove box and found cocaine inside. The defendant was arrested and charged accordingly.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the gun and money, arguing that there was no probable cause to search the car. The prosecution argued that the marijuana and money that was found on the defendant justified a search of the vehicle. The court disagreed, noting that the automobile exception to the warrant requirement still requires that officers have probable cause to search a vehicle. Here, the small amount of marijuana found on the defendant did not give the police probable cause to search the car. The court explained that marijuana is legal to possess in small amounts, and that it only carries “minimal significance.” The court went on to explain that the presence of marijuana in the defendant’s pocket did not result in a reasonable inference that there would be contraband in the car. Thus, the defendant’s motion was allowed and the evidence suppressed.

Have You Been Arrested After Police Searched Your Car?

If you have recently been arrested after police searched your car, contact Attorney John W. Noonan for assistance. Under state and federal constitutional law, police officers must base their decision to search a car on articulable facts that support a finding of probable cause. As this case illustrates, the presence of a small amount of marijuana may not be sufficient to justify a search. Attorney Noonan is a veteran California criminal defense attorney with over 40 years of experience handling all types of cases, including California drug cases. To learn more about how Attorney Noonan can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 877-463-3390 to schedule a free consultation today.

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