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State police stop car, arrest 2 men on drug charges

When the police make what is billed as a standard traffic stop, the reason they most often give for the authority to do a preliminary search is that they smelled the odor of marijuana. That reason is becoming obsolete as a justification for a search and subsequent drug charges because many states now have medical marijuana laws that make carrying the drug legal under restrictive regulations. New Hampshire has had a medical marijuana law in operation since 2013, but the authorities continue to conduct searches based on smelling the odor of pot.

This happened just recently on I-95 when the New Hampshire State Police stopped a commercial box truck with two men from North Carolina in it. The state troopers allegedly smelled marijuana in the vehicle. The troopers, in what appears to be a smart move, did not go right into a search; rather, they allegedly requested consent for a full search. They say that the two men gave consent and after conducting a full search, the police charged them with possession of marijuana and illegal gun possession.

When the authorities ask for consent, many people do not know that they are disposing of all of their rights of privacy by giving consent. The courts have consistently approved voluntary consent as an exception to the need for probable cause. When consent is given, however, basic rights are thrown away and it becomes harder to establish a constitutional defense. 

The courts in New Hampshire and elsewhere approve consensual searches in a multitude of situations, and to prove that the consent was coerced from the suspects would be very difficult to do. Thus, the testimony of the police that consent was voluntarily given will usually be decisive. That leaves the suspects only with possible attacks on the stop itself, as not being a stop for a traffic violation, or an attack on the police allegation that they smelled pot emanating from the vehicle. Those are not likely to be successful in most cases, leaving the option of engaging in immediate plea bargaining to try and get an attractive resolution on the drug charges and gun charges. 

Source: Hampton, NH Patch, "Two from North Carolina Arrested on I-95", Tony Schinella, Sept. 12, 2016

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