Recently in Automobile Search Category

August 25, 2014

Appeals Court Affirms Suppression of Firearm Seized During Warrantless Search of Vehicle

The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently upheld a superior court ruling allowing a motion to suppress a firearm seized after a warrantless search of a backpack following an investigatory stop of a motor vehicle.

In Commonwealth v. Rutledge, two defendants were charged, among other things, with numerous firearms offenses. The arrest was made on July 13, 2011 after a 911 operator in Brockton received a call from a woman who overheard an argument between her current boyfriend and former boyfriend, when the former boyfriend allegedly pulled a gun on the current boyfriend, threatening to kill him.

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August 11, 2014

Smell of Unburnt Marijuana Does Not Provide Probable Cause Justifying Warrantless Search of Vehicle

After Massachusetts made it legal to possess one ounce or less of marijuana, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled in Commonwealth v. Cruz that the odor of burnt marijuana alone could not provide reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify a warrantless search. In a recent case, the SJC expanded that decision and held that the smell of unburnt marijuana does not provide probable cause for the police to search a vehicle.

In Commonwealth v. Overmyer, the defendant was involved in a motor vehicle crash. When the police arrived at the scene, they encountered a "very strong odor" of unburnt marijuana emanating from the defendant's vehicle. After questioning the defendant about marijuana being present in the vehicle, the defendant acknowledged that a bag of marijuana was in the glove compartment, and gave the keys to the police. After the police retrieved a "fat bag" of marijuana, the officers continued to smell an odor or marijuana in the vehicle, and questioned the defendant about the possibility of the vehicle obtaining a larger amount of marijuana. Although the defendant denied this, the police proceeded with a search of the car, and found a backpack in the back seat filled with marijuana.

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