Recently, the state of Louisiana passed a bill that made medical marijuana available with a valid prescription from an approved doctor. Passage of the bill was accompanied by excitement from those expected to benefit from the drug. But it was also accompanied by a myriad of questions from those who are concerned about how the bill will affect future marijuana laws in Louisiana. In addition to questions regarding the medicinal form of the drug, there have been questions about the possession of recreational marijuana as an illegal substance. One question that’s come up is “Can I be searched for smelling like marijuana?”
It’s imperative to understand your rights regarding drug possession and searches as they pertain to the law. Therefore, we’re going to discuss the answer to that question.
Louisiana Marijuana Possession Laws
According to federal law, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. Under both federal and Louisiana state laws, possession of a Schedule I substance is illegal and subject to strict penalties. The only people who have immunity from prosecution for possession of marijuana are those with a medical marijuana prescription. Even then, it’s still illegal to grow, sell, or distribute the drug. If convicted of possession of marijuana in the state of Louisiana, you can face minimum fines of $300 and a minimum of 15 days in the parish jail.
Probable Cause for Search in Louisiana
Probable cause is defined as “Reasonable grounds for pressing a charge, making a search, etc.” Although the smell of marijuana might be enough to raise questions regarding whether or not you have been using, sense of smell is still highly subjective. Therefore, the smell of marijuana is not considered probable cause for a search in most locations.
If the police suspect you’re growing or using marijuana in your home, they need more evidence than the smell of marijuana to warrant a search. Likewise, if the police suspect you’ve been smoking marijuana in public, they must visibly see either marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia.
The only location where the smell of marijuana is deemed a somewhat probable cause for a search is your vehicle. Due to strict DUI laws in the state of Louisiana, it’s unlawful to smoke marijuana while inside or operating your vehicle. Therefore, if an officer pulls you over and smells marijuana, they have the right to conduct a plain sight search of your vehicle. That means they can search your vehicle for marijuana left in a visible location.
What to do During a Drug Search
It’s important to remember that in order to conduct a search, a police officer must either have a warrant or your consent. Whether an officer wants to search your home or your vehicle, you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. In any situation, it’s in your best interest to exercise that right and obtain a lawyer. A trusted drug attorney can help you understand your rights as they pertain to drug searches and develop a viable defense if you’re charged with possession of drugs.
Trusted Drug Attorneys Near You
At The John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm, we have more than 25 years of experience in criminal law and helped thousands of people by developing viable defense strategies that hold up in court. So, whether you’ve been charged with drug possession or are the victim of an unlawful search and seizure, we have the knowledge to help you.
For a free consultation with any of our Louisiana Bar Association certified lawyers, call our office at 318-377-1555 or fill out our online contact form today. We look forward to meeting you soon.