This case involves a woman who was pulled over by the police. During the traffic stop, the trooper smelt an odor of cannabis coming from inside the vehicle. At that time, another trooper stopped and was asked to assist with a free air sniff of the vehicle with his K-9. As the second trooper retrieved his K-9, the first K-9 performed a free air sniff of the vehicle. Neither of the two K-9 dogs ever smelled the cannabis while at the scene. In spite of this negative result, the troopers searched the plaintiff vehicle while the plaintiff was held in one of the squad cars. During the search of the vehicle, the troopers discovered a large amount of cannabis under the back seat of the car.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Are you familiar with the different ways to conceal the smell of contraband?
- 2. Are you able to inspect the alleged cannabis for weight and chain of custody?
- 3. Was the search of the plaintiff's vehicle that was executed by police legal?
Expert Witness Response E-007697
I am familiar with and have taught classes to police officers in how people transport drugs and attempt to conceal the smell. Unless I am missing something, the checking of the cannabis for weight would merely consist of weighing it on a certified scale. I have also taught police officers classes on chain of custody requirements and issues. Your description of the events immediately preceding the handcuffing and search seem to indicate a lack of the prerequisite probable cause necessary to make such a search and seizure.
Expert Witness Response E-007703
I am familiar with the different ways of concealing the smell of contraband, and I am capable of dealing with the weight and chain of custody. It is understandable if the officer could detect the smell of burnt marijuana. However, I am unsure if the officer could have smelled the marijuana from the trunk of the car.