To Consent or Not to Consent to a Search?

A recent North Carolina Court of Appeals opinion has clarified the constitutional status of search of a passenger in a vehicle which emits the odor of marijuana.

In State v. Pigford 789 S. E. 2d 857 (2106), the court ruled that the mere smell of marijuana emanating from a vehicle does not justify the search of passenger. The ruling reverses the trial court’s denial of Pigford’s motion to suppress and subsequent convictions for felony possession of cocaine and possession of firearm by felon.

The Court ruled that the odor of marijuana gave the officer probable cause to search the vehicle for contraband. The Court however ruled that did not justify the search of any particular passenger unless there are articulable facts showing that the odor of marijuana was coming from that person.

However, before you blaze up in your car in reliance on this law, be aware that the State has sought review of this opinion to the North Carolina Supreme Court and this may not be the final word on this issue.