CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Some defense lawyers are questioning Chesapeake police officers' practice of pulling over vehicles based on an officer smelling the drug.
According to court documents, an officer said at a preliminary hearing last year that officers drive with the vents of their patrol cars open. Outside air is pulled directly into their faces.
"Commonly, we'll be behind vehicles that somebody in the vehicle is smoking marijuana, and we can smell it clear as day," Officer Barrett Ring said in the hearing for Deon Crudup.
Before officers pull over a car to search it, Ring said, they will follow it until there are no other cars in the area and they are certain about the source of the odor.
Crudup, 29, was convicted in October on one count of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and is scheduled to stand trial May 8 on one count of felony possession of heroin.
Assistant Public Defender Matthew Taylor tells The Virginian-Pilot ( http://bit.ly/JyU8FD) that the idea of officers driving behind a vehicle and being able to smell marijuana is preposterous. Taylor made an unsuccessful bid last week to get a search of Crudup's car dismissed.
Taylor said he decided to challenge the search of Crudup's car partly in hopes that he could prevent the practice from becoming common.
"If cops can get away with this, they will have total authority," he said.
Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Virginia, said he expects more legal challenges in the future to traffic stops based only on an officer's sense of smell.
Chesapeake Police Department officials declined to comment.
Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com
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