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Category Archives: Check Point Rights

Massachusetts Supreme Court smell of marijuana not enough to search a car.

In a move that has state police in an uproar, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court yesterday ruled that the smell of unburned pot in a car isn’t enough of a reason for cops to search it because the state decriminalized small amounts back in 2008. Basically: because some amounts of pot possession aren’t a crime, the cops can’t use the smell of weed to justify their search.

Not only that, but the court pointed out that they made a similar ruling three years ago, deciding that the smell of raw weed wasn’t enough to justify the search of someone on the street. According to the judges: the police should “focus their attention elsewhere.”

“The 2008 initiative decriminalized possession of one ounce or less of marijuana under State law, and accordingly removed police authority to arrest individuals for civil violations,” Justice Barbara Lenk wrote in the unanimous ruling. “We have held that the odor of burnt marijuana alone cannot support probable cause to search a vehicle without a warrant … we hold that such odor, standing alone, does not provide probable cause to search an automobile.”

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What are my rights at various “checkpoints”? Police Misconduct

There are four general types of checkpoints you might encounter: DUI checkpoints, US border checkpoints, drug checkpoints, and TSA checkpoints. In a legal sense, they are not all created equal. So depending on which one you encounter, you’ll want to be prepared to flex your rights appropriately.

DUI Checkpoints

Sobriety checkpoints — also known as DUI checkpoints — are the most common roadblocks you might encounter. They function as a general purpose investigatory tactic where police can get a close look at passing motorists by detaining them briefly. A roadblock stop is quick, but it gives police a chance to check tags and licenses, while also giving officers a quick whiff of the driver’s breath and a chance to peer into the vehicle for a moment.

Remember that your constitutional rights still apply in a roadblock situation. Though police are permitted to stop you briefly, they may not search you or your car unless they have probable cause that you’re under the influence or you agree to the search. As such, you are not required to answer their questions or admit to breaking the law.

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Illinois v. Caballes police have more leeway to use drug-sniffing dogs in roadblock situations. There’s no need to waive your rights simply because dogs are present. But be advised that your legal options are limited if you’re arrested as a result of a dog sniff during a roadblock.

Continue reading What are my rights at various “checkpoints”? Police Misconduct