Officer had Probable Cause to Search Vehicle


vehicle

Case: People v. North

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )

Issues:

Motion to suppress; Probable cause to extend the traffic stop & conduct a search of the vehicle; People v. Williams; Due deference; People v. Shipley; People v. Dagwan; U.S. Const. amend. IV; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 11; People v. Armendarez; People v. Kazmierczak; Illinois v. Caballes; People v. Kimble

Summary:

The court held that the trial court properly denied defendant’s motion to suppress after concluding that Officer C’s testimony was credible where defendant offered “no reason to second-guess the trial court’s credibility determination[.]” He was convicted of possession of marijuana, second offense. He argued that his motion should have been granted because C did not have probable cause to extend the traffic stop and conduct a search of his vehicle. Defendant argued that C lied when he testified that he smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle; thus, he had no probable cause to extend the traffic stop to conduct a canine sniff and, then, search his vehicle. Defendant merely stated that C’s actions were “wholly inconsistent with the actions an officer would take if, in fact, he had probable cause.” He admitted that his challenge “is essentially one of credibility.” But as the trial court held, C’s testimony that he smelled the odor of marijuana coming from defendant’s vehicle was unrefuted. He failed to present any evidence that would either tend to contradict C’s testimony or lead to an inference that C could not have smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle. There was no evidence of any variables that could have impacted C’s “ability to smell ‘fresh marijuana’ located on the passenger seat, such as: (1) environmental conditions (like cold, wind, car exhaust); (2) how far defendant’s window was rolled down; and (3) the amount of marijuana or how it was packaged.” Instead, defendant argued that, if C had smelled marijuana, he would have behaved differently. That was, he would have told defendant that he smelled marijuana and he would have immediately searched the vehicle without conducting a canine sniff. But these claims were insufficient to establish that C testified falsely when he stated that he smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle. As the trial court noted, C did not have to tell defendant that he smelled marijuana or anything else “in terms of what he was doing if the officer is proceeding to investigate based upon his own observations[.]” It may very well have been for safety purposes that C did not tell defendant that he smelled marijuana. Further, C’s decision to have a canine sniff confirm that marijuana was inside of defendant’s vehicle was reasonable and served to strengthen his assertion that he had probable cause both to extend the traffic stop and to perform a search of his vehicle. C’s unrefuted claim that he smelled the odor of marijuana provided the probable cause necessary to extend the traffic stop long enough to conduct a canine sniff, which then led to the search of defendant’s vehicle. Affirmed.

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