The Voice finalist Laith Al-Saadi was arrested last year for a host of drug possession crimes arising from a routine traffic stop. The case could be a law school exam question because of the issues present, from the very novel to all too common.
The scent of marijuana, a plant now legal to possess in Michigan, was the probable cause police say they needed to search the vehicle of NBC’s “The Voice” finalist and Ann Arbor native Laith Al-Saadi in February.
The odor allegedly led state police to the discovery of other drugs, fentanyl, hydrocodone and morphine, for which Al-Saadi now faces criminal charges.
At the time of the traffic stop (for driving with an expired license plate), marijuana was only legal in Michigan for medical use. The court has now denied Al-Saasi’s motion to suppress the evidence. A motion to suppress is filed when the police have done something illegal or unconstitutional to get evidence against some. Al-Saadi’s argued to the judge that because it was legal to smoke medical marijuana, the smell of marijuana is no evidence of probable cause of a crime. (I tend to agree with Al-Saadi’s lawyer here: other courts are split. The scent of marijuana alone is not probable cause in a medical marijuana state in Arizona; more is required. State v. Sisco, 2015 Ariz. App. LEXIS 119 (July 20, 2015) While in California, the fact California has legalized recreational marijuana does not make the smell of marijuana in a car no longer PC. United States v. Martinez, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138329 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 14, 2018) Similarly, Nevada is a medical marijuana state, and police don’t have to discount legal possession of marijuana before continuing a stop based on smell. United States v. Harris, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157902 (D.Nev. June 30, 2016), adopted, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157787 (D. Nev. Nov. 14, 2016).
Per reports, the prosecutor voluntarily has now dismissed the charges for illegal possession of marijuana because Michigan votes largely decriminalized recreational marijuana use in November. However, the other charges seemingly will continue to trial.
What can Alabama citizens learn:
- Alabama courts allow police to stop someone under the pretext of any traffic violation to “investigate” other crimes.
- Even if you have a medical marijuana card, it is ineffective in Alabama. No matter the purpose of your possession, no matter the insignificant amount you possess, you can be prosecuted for possession of marijuana. (Alabama only has an extremely narrow CBD statute.)
- Alabama courts believe the smell of marijuana is probable cause to search the whole vehicle, clothes, purses, and body.
- You can be prosecuted for whatever police find resulting from a valid search for marijuana.
Here are some other articles on possession of marijuana.
- A new report details the injustices of Alabama’s “War on Marijuana”
- Former Crimson Tide LB Reuben Foster Arrested for Marijuana. What does Alabama law say?
- Lessons in “Constructive Possession”: Less Than 1 Ounce Of Marijuana Leads To Arrests Of 70 Georgia Partygoers
- Constructive vs Actual Possession of Drugs