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Sunday, July 20, 2008

State Supreme Court narrows probable-cause grounds in pot case

Law-enforcement officers who detect the odor of marijuana from a vehicle can't arrest all of the occupants, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In a unanimous ruling, the court determined the smell of pot isn't enough probable cause to warrant the arrest and search of everyone inside a car. While smell alone may be reason for a vehicle search, the court determined, it doesn't warrant handcuffing passengers without other supporting evidence.

Defense attorneys on Thursday called it a right-to-privacy victory. Law-enforcement officers say it won't greatly affect the way they make arrests.

The ruling stems from a traffic stop in April 2006 in Skagit County.

Law-enforcement officers who detect the odor of marijuana from a vehicle can't arrest all of the occupants, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In a unanimous ruling, the court determined the smell of pot isn't enough probable cause to warrant the arrest and search of everyone inside a car. While smell alone may be reason for a vehicle search, the court determined, it doesn't warrant handcuffing passengers without other supporting evidence.

Defense attorneys on Thursday called it a right-to-privacy victory. Law-enforcement officers say it won't greatly affect the way they make arrests.

The ruling stems from a traffic stop in April 2006 in Skagit County. [Mark Godsey]

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