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Court Discusses Probable Cause in Car Search


The defendant motioned to suppress a gun, the magazine in the gun, and nine rounds of ammunition in the magazine at a hearing before the court.

During the hearing the People called one witness, a police officer who was assigned to the Anti-Crime Unit of the 75th precinct at the relevant times.

The defense called another officer who at the relevant times was the partner of the officer called by the People. The defense also called a woman who worked in the Kings County District Attorney’s office during the relevant time.

Case Facts

On the 29th of November, three officers were on duty. They were in plain clothes and patrolling in an unmarked vehicle. At around one in the morning they were driving in a known drug area. At that particular time there were no cars or pedestrians in the area. They had the windows down on their car so they could hear any gunfire and smell drugs such as marijuana.

As the officers proceeded down the road they saw a light colored car with Connecticut plates pass them. When the car went around them and was about six feet in front of them, the officer smelled marijuana. The officers followed the car and they continued to smell burning marijuana.

After following the car for a few blocks the officers stopped the vehicle. One of the officers approached the vehicle using his flashlight. The officers all identified themselves by displaying their shields. The officers did not have their guns drawn. As they were approaching the car, the officer noticed that there were other officers in other police cars arriving, with some of them in uniform.

When the officer approached the car he smelled marijuana. The passenger stated that “we were just smoking a little weed.” When this statement was made the officer noticed a Ziploc bag containing a green leafy substance on the floor of the car beneath the passenger’s feet.

The officer removed the individual from the vehicle and placed him under arrest. The other individual was arrested by another officer on the scene.

The officer then smelled a different odor coming from the trunk of the car. At this point the defendant was still inside the car. As the defendant was getting out of the car, the officer continued to smell un-burnt marijuana. He asked the defendant for his license, registration and insurance. Upon discovering that the defendant’s license was suspended he placed him under arrest.

The car was then searched and inside the trunk there was bunched up cellophane wrapping, a handgun that was loaded, and rounds of ammunition lying next to it.

Case Discussion and Decision

The court has determined that the officer had probable cause to search the vehicle. The smell of marijuana was reason enough for a search to be conducted. For this reason, the motion to suppress the weapons and ammunition from evidence is denied as they were found during a legal search and seizure.

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