The traditional justification for instigating a search of automobile occupants has – according to the Massachusetts Supreme Court – just gone up in smoke.
Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in Commonwealth v. Cruz , SJC Case Number SJC-10738, that the odor of marijuana alone does not suffice to establish probable cause or reasonable suspicion enough to order the occupants of a car to get out for a search. In Cruz’ case, the police smelled burnt marijuana, which then prompted them to interrogate and search Cruz. The search yielded marijuana and crack cocaine. Cruz was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute within a school zone. Cruz challenged the evidence in a motion to suppress evidence that was allowed. The case then reached the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on appeal. The Court’s ruling should eliminate the “burnt marijuana” exit orders that frequently turn into drug or OUI cases.