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When is it lawful for LEO to search me, my house or my car?

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
A law enforcement officer (LEO) generally has the right to frisk you for weapons if he has any lawful business with you. In the process, if he finds a joint in your pocket, he can bust you for it.

Generally, LEO must have either a reasonable suspicion or probable cause that you have committed a crime, or that criminal activity is afoot, in order to stop your car. Once stopped, LEO may search a vehicle if he has probable cause that it contains contraband. Police may search a vehicle in cases of a routine traffic stop for a minor violation like speeding.

LEO can search your person, your car or the place where you are found after you have been lawfully arrested. This is called a search incident to a lawful arrest. A scenario to consider: You get a DUI. While searching your vehicle, after arresting you for DUI, the officer finds some valiums not in a pill bottle and for which you do not have a prescription. He takes you to jail on the DUI but does not arrest you on the pills. You bond out. He sends the pills to the crime lab who confirms that they are valium. He gets an arrest warrant and serves it on you at your home, searches your home incident to the arrest for possession of valium, and finds your grow room.

LEO can search any area in which evidence of the commission of a crime is plain view. Not only is this the bloody knife on the front seat situation, but too, the pot plant on your window sill or the beer can in your cup holder.

LEO may search your house or your car if you give your consent to such a search.

Finally, LEO can search your home if he has probable cause that a crime has been committed and there are "exigent circumstances." Exigent circumstances are those circumstances which would cause a reasonable person to believe that prompt action, such as entry, is necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons, the destruction of relevant evidence, the escape of the suspect, or some other consequence improperly frustrating legitimate law enforcement efforts.


New Member
The plain view standard, applies to small as well. If they can smell the weed, that's probable cause to search. So, don't smoke where it can be smelled by le. The police can only search for weapons in most cases, as such, don't keep weed near weapons. Don't keep weapons at all, makes everything much worse. If you shake in your car, keep it clean. The police find more chafe on the seats than actual bags of weed. Roaches and remnants of rolling joints in a car are just as good for them to put together something from nothing. End result is dont be stupid.


New Member

This is no longer the case. Based upon the precedent set by the 2016 State of Arizona v. Ronald James Sisco II decision, smell alone does not constitute probable cause. Search warrants can no longer be issued with "smell alone." If you were arrested as a result of one of these warrants, there is precedent to have the evidence eliminated (fruit of the poisonous tree).


Well-Known Member
In California, smell is not cause to search. Cannabis is supposed to be treated the same as any other legal commodity.
That being said, old habits die hard, and if an LEO wants to search you, he may find another reason.
The new rules are still sifting through to practice. It is still illegal to smoke in a car, even if it is stationary, and you cannot carry an open container in the car, so they can presumably check to see if you are carrying legally, and test you for intoxication.
In the case of smelling a grow room, they cannot just come in and search, but I'm sure you will gain their attention, in case you slip up.
As for me, I'm still acting like it is 100% illegal.


Member of the Month: May 2009, Oct 2010, Sept 2017
As for me, I’m still acting like it is 100% illegal.

Works for me (and that's what I do). Or, to bastardize an old Ted Nugent lyric, lol, when in doubt, don't whip it out ;) .

In California, smell is not cause to search. Cannabis is supposed to be treated the same as any other legal commodity.

I have a relative that was a LEO in CA until he retired. He did so before California legalized for recreational use, but he was still an active LEO when it became legal for medicinal use. During one of his rare visits "back home," I asked him - as a person will, when the opportunity presents itself to have a frank discussion with a LEO that you know will not put your name on "a list" just for having such a discussion, lol - how he dealt with cannabis users as part of his job as a cop.

His answer (paraphrased, as it has been some years since we had the conversation and I may have misplaced a brain cell - or two - since then) was, "Well, you know cannabis use is illegal. So I'll get right on that... Just as soon as we've managed to lock up every murderer, rapist, thief, drunk driver, et cetera in the state. Now are you going to light that thing or not?"

Basically, he was saying that there is only so much time, and that he had more important things to do with his. I know this isn't the attitude of every LEO on the planet (regrettably, it probably isn't even the attitude of most of them). But I do hope that more and more LEOs are becoming afflicted with...

...common sense ;) .

Years ago, I was worried about law enforcement types prowling open (cannabis-related) forums like this one. And, yes, I still have a bit of that fear. But, more and more, I find myself wondering how many LEOs are ghosting through - or even registered members - so that they can learn how to grow our favorite plant, lol.

However... I recently heard that Our Fearful Leader's AG has decided to reverse the previous administration's stance on cannabis - and thereby reversing the decision that it is the individual states' rights to decide (which it IS, since our Constitution clearly defines what is the federal government's responsibility, and that all else is within the states' purview. As stated in the Tenth Amendment (in its entirety), "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." ). I wonder how this will affect those states which have already legalized cannabis for recreational use - to say nothing of those states which are considering it or would be likely to do so in the future. After all, those d!cks in DC have repeatedly shown that they will do whatever they can to interfere even in issues that they've (grudgingly) admitted that are the states' issues. One example that immediately springs to mind is the minimum legal age to purchase alcohol in this country. This was something that was up to the individual states to decide. So, in 1984, Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act - that basically said if a state refused to raise its minimum age (where alcohol was concerned) to 21, the federal government would withhold 10% of their federal highway funds.

In other words, extortion IS legal - but only if the entity doing the extorting is the government.

Or, to put it another way, the US federal government will do an end-run around the Tenth Amendment whenever it can (which, it turns out, is quite often). And, sadly, the Supreme Court has only acted to stop this completely unconstitutional behavior by the federal government a relative handful of times.

I ask you, what good does it do to have a US Constitution - when our own federal government only even acknowledges its existence... when it is convenient to do so?
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