30 Dec Marijuana and Traffic Stops
Marijuana and Traffic Stops
As some states legalize marijuana both medicinally and recreationally, marijuana is becoming more prevalent. Even legislators in Indiana are beginning to discuss whether medical marijuana should be legalized here. However, as of now, marijuana is still illegal in Indiana, and at Chambers Law Office, we see plenty of simple possession charges where Hoosiers are pulled over while possessing or consuming marijuana and are charged with a misdemeanor or felony. Marijuana and traffic stops are very common issues criminal defense lawyers deal with and at Chambers Law office, you will have an experienced criminal attorney on your side.
Possession of Marijuana
Indiana’s Marijuana possession law states:
“a) A person who:
(1) knowingly or intentionally possesses (pure or adulterated) marijuana, hash oil, hashish, or salvia;
(2) knowingly or intentionally grows or cultivates marijuana; or
(3) knowing that marijuana is growing on the person’s premises, fails to destroy the marijuana plants; commits possession of marijuana, hash oil, hashish, or salvia, a Class B misdemeanor, except as provided in subsections (b) through (c). Ind. Code Ann. § 35-48-4-11.
The charges can be enhanced depending on certain circumstances, including if the person charged has a prior conviction for possession of marijuana, in which case it can be enhanced to a Class A misdemeanor.
Marijuana and Traffic Stops
Being charged with any misdemeanor is not fun, and those who find themselves being pulled over should remember that the Constitution protects unreasonable searches and seizures, even in a car. However, as soon as you see the red and blue lights and hear the wail of the siren it is time to pull-over and to protect yourself, you should keep your hands on the steering wheel until the officer approaches and gives further orders.
If an officer asks you why you committed your traffic violation, you do not have to answer, but you do have to present identification when prompted. You do not have to answer any questions that would incriminate yourself, even if the officer is suggestive otherwise. If you feel nervous at any time, you can reply that you would like to speak with your attorney before answering any more questions.
What is important is that the officer has to have reasonable suspicion to pull you over, so more likely than not, there was a valid traffic violation. If for some reason the stop was invalid, anything searched afterwards would be inadmissible. This is unlikely, but would be the best situation possible assuming the officer searches and finds marijuana in your vehicle.
Marijuana and K9 Searches
The most severe situation would be a K9 sniff. There are usually two situations where this can occur. The first is if the officer already has a K9 with him, he may conduct an open air test to see if the dog detects any marijuana in the vehicle. If the K9 indicates for narcotics, the officer would then be able to search the vehicle.
If the officer does not have his K9 with him when he pulls you over, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled canine sniffs do not violate the Fourth amendment so long as they are during the original stop, before the officer has completed the necessary steps to conclude that stop. Myers v. State, 839 N.E.2d 1146, 1154 IND. 2005. This means that if another officer arrives with a K9 before the initial stop is complete, they can still conduct an open air search. However, the officers are not permitted to extend a traffic stop in order to get the K9 to the scene, so if a court finds that the stop was unreasonably delayed, any marijuana that may be found during a search may be suppressed.
As such, as soon as you are pulled over, you should look at the clock. If the officer takes too long and the dog sniff occurs much later than the initial stop, it may be deemed unconstitutional. There is not a precise time limit because each traffic stop is different, but the longer it takes for the dog to arrive at the scene the less likely the search will be valid.
Indianapolis Marijuana Criminal Defense Lawyer
Julie Chambers established Chambers Law Office in 2012 after spending five years as a deputy prosecutor in Indianapolis. She represents those facing criminal charges throughout central Indiana. She brings her unique experience as a deputy prosecutor to every case and strives to provide the best possible service. If you or your child are facing criminal charges for possession of marijuana, contact Chambers Law Office today at 317-450-2971.