May 11, 2011 1 Comment
Burnt Marijuana Odor Not Enough To Suspect Criminal Activity
By Denise Lavoie, AP Legal Affairs Writer
BOSTON (AP) — The odor of burnt marijuana alone is not enough for police to suspect criminal activity and order a person to get out of a car, the state’s highest court ruled Tuesday, citing a state law that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of the narcotic.
The Supreme Judicial Court cited a 2008 ballot question in which voters agreed to make possession of 1 ounce or less a civil, rather than a criminal, violation.
“We conclude that, to order a passenger in a stopped vehicle to exit based merely on suspicion of an offense, that offense must be criminal,” Chief Justice Roderick Ireland wrote for the court in the 5-1 ruling.
The court found that the new law “provides a clear directive to police departments handling violators to treat commission of this offense as noncriminal.”
“Ferreting out decriminalized conduct with the same fervor associated with the pursuit of serious criminal conduct is neither desired by the public nor in accord with the plain language of the statute,” Ireland wrote.
The court said that there must be additional reasons for police to suspect criminal activity to justify ordering someone to get out of a car. Read more of this post