In a recent case coming out of a New York court, the defendant appealed his guilty conviction for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. Officers searched for this weapon only because they had previously smelled marijuana in the defendant’s car, making them suspicious of additional drug or criminal activity. In his appeal, the defendant relied on a recently enacted law that legalizes possession of marijuana in certain amounts for individuals who are 21 or older in New York. The court acknowledged this new law but ultimately ruled that the law does not apply to convictions that occurred before the passage of the law in 2021. The Court found that the police officer had reasonable cause to believe that there was contraband located in the car, to wit marijuana. At the time of the search, possession of marijuana was still illegal in New York. Therefore, because the defendant was charged in 2018, he could not use the law to argue for his conviction to be overturned.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, two police officers were patrolling one evening in his car when they noticed the defendant pull away from the curb without signaling. The officers signaled the defendant to pull over and then conducted a traffic stop. Once the defendant rolled down his car window, the officers immediately smelled a strong odor of marijuana.
After the officers asked the defendant whether there was, in fact, marijuana in the car, the defendant answered in the affirmative and opened his center console. The officers found two bags of marijuana and $1,000 cash. Continuing to smell the marijuana, the officers searched other areas of the car and subsequently found a loaded firearm in the trunk.