Traffic Stops & Marijuana

So there you are cruising down the road, your favorite song on the radio… life is good. Then you see the lights in your rear view window and you are being stopped by the police.

Your buddy in the passenger seat put his stash of weed in the center console when you left your dorm for the store. The officer is approaching the driver side window. OMG!!

Don’t panic. Hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel… don’t reach for your license and insurance until you tell the officer you are about to do so. Passenger, keep your hands visible in plain sight. NEVER make quick movements to move the pot or other contraband… NEVER attempt to toss it out the window either, that never works out well for you.

The officer tells you he has pulled you over for rolling through a stop sign. You show him your license and insurance as he states, “You got anything in the car I should know about?” The answer is ALWAYS… and I mean ALWAYS: “No, officer.” The officer says he smells weed and asks you and your friend to exit the vehicle. The officer may ask for back up at this time, sensing he is about to make a bust. Again, don’t panic!

The officer will split up you and your friend. Police like to do this interviewing tactic because it works. They will tell you that your buddy has sold you down the river; your buddy has told them that there is pot in the car and it is YOURS!! Don’t believe it!! DENY, DENY, DENY!

The officer will ask you for CONSENT to search your vehicle. The correct answer to this question is: “No.” If the weed is in the center console of the vehicle, you and your friend can be charged with possession. Different states have different aspects of possession laws, but just trust me on this… if the dope is within reaching distance for you… it is in YOUR possession. It does not have to be on your person.

I get more clients as a defense attorney based on one fact… they consent to a search when they should say no. The officer is asking for consent because he doesn’t have another legal way to get at the interior of your vehicle. In some states the officer can actually arrest you for running the stop sign, then “inventory” your vehicle prior to impounding it. This is a chicken feather way to get at the dope, but believe me it is done… especially if you get mouthy. Cops have a name for people that are arrested for petty offenses after getting mouthy. They call them P.O.P offenses… (Piss off police).

Just know that Courts have ruled in the U.S. that the smell of weed in a car can add to the “totality of circumstances” to get probable cause to search for contraband. Some state courts have ruled the smell alone is enough, don’t gamble! If a cop stops you and your car reeks of weed, a good cop will find enough reasons to piece together a legal search. Make them work for it though… NEVER CONSENT. It will not help you down the road in court to show how you cooperated with the police. The police will lie and tell you it will help, but it plays no part in the negotiation your defense attorney will have with the prosecutor on your case.

If the cops legally search and get to the pot in the center console of your car, one of you should decide to take the rap by yourself. If you both finger point to the other guy, you will both be arrested. If you are going to be dumb enough to drive around with pot, have this discussion before you drive the car. The general rule is whoever brought the weed takes the arrest, plain and simple. And obviously, the best rule to live by is don’t be a dope and let anyone in your car with dope.

In this scenario, with no consent you will probably just get a ticket for running the stop sign. If it goes farther and someone gets arrested, keep your mouth SHUT. Never give a verbal or written admission regarding a crime to a cop. You have the right to remain silent, use that right!

If you get arrested for a small amount of pot, you can usually get deals to keep it off of your record if you are a first time offender. Those deals involve drug education classes, fines and court fees, along with random urine tests. It is not the end of the world but be smart and avoid this problem. If you must smoke weed, smoke it somewhere safe and don’t operate a car.

If you do happen to get arrested, call me, I can help. 817-927-0199