CRIMINAL LAW – Search and Seizure – Stop – Odor of marijuana coming from
a vehicle is sufficient grounds to search all of the occupants of the vehicle.
– Order of suppression reversed. State v. Bowman, No. 03-10 APANO (Fla. 6th Cir. App. Ct. Feb.
THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
THE STATE OF FLORIDA IN AND FOR
No. CRC 03-10 APANO
from a decision of the
Judge Dorothy Vaccaro
ORDER AND OPINION
THIS MATTER is before the Court on the State’s appeal from an order
of the Pinellas County Court granting the defendant’s motion to suppress.
After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court reverses the decision of
the lower court.
A City of St.Petersburg
officer, while working undercover, was approached by a car. One of the occupants
of the car was the defendant. After a brief conversation with the officer,
the occupants pulled away in the car. The officer had over twelve years of
experience, had training in narcotics cases, and had been involved in hundreds
of narcotics arrests over the years. Based upon his experience he suspected
that the occupants of the car were attempting to buy drugs. The officer noticed
a traffic infraction, so he radioed for his fellow officers to stop the car.
The car was stopped. When the officer approached the car from the passenger
side, he noticed an odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle. The driver
was ultimately arrested for driving with a suspended license. During the investigation
that followed, the officer searched the passenger’s (defendant’s) purse. Marijuana
was discovered inside the purse, and the defendant was arrested. The trial
court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress because it found the suspect
was the driver, and not the passenger. Therefore, the court concluded that
there was no reason to search the defendant. The State has appealed that decision.
The standard of review in this case is de novo. See Ornelas v. United
States, 517 U.S. 690 (1996).
The odor of marijuana emanating from a vehicle is sufficient grounds
to search all of the occupants of the vehicle. In State v. Wynn, 623
So.2d 848, 849 (Fla. 2d DCA 1993), the court wrote: “[w]e conclude that the
smell of marijuana upon the officers’ approach of the car gave the officers’
probable cause to search the occupants of the car and the car for contraband.”
See also, State v. K.V., 821 So2d 1127 (Fla.
4th DCA 2002) (where the court reversed the order granting the
motion to suppress and upheld the search of a passenger after the officer
smelled marijuana emanating from the car). Based upon the foregoing case law,
the order granting the defendant’s motion to suppress must be reversed.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the order granting the defendant’s motion
to suppress is reversed, and this matter is remanded to the trial court for
action consistent with this Order and Opinion.
DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at Clearwater,
Pinellas County, Florida
this _____ day of February, 2004.
Nancy Moate Ley
John A. Schaefer
County Judge Vaccaro