When it comes to any aspect of New Jersey law, there are all types of doctrines. More than likely, you’ve heard something about the “plain view” doctrine. That said, what in the world is the “plain smell” doctrine? And, how does it apply to DUI/DWI cases?
The answer might appear somewhat obvious. As you might guess, both doctrines apply to warrantless searches. Here’s an example of how the plain view doctrine might apply to a motor vehicle stop.
You cascade through a stop sign, and the police pull you over. Yes, some refer to the short stop as a “New Jersey Stop.” However, if the officer suspects you of a motor vehicle violation, he or she has every reason to detain you.
All things considered, you’d rather not open up your glove box to offer over your registration and insurance card. The fact is that you know you’re hiding something else in there. As much as you try, you’re unable to block the policeman’s view.
The problem is that you have a gun tucked away within the glove box. Unfortunately, it’s right on top and not camouflaged at all. You’re shaky as you’re keenly aware of the potential consequences.
Since the gun is in plain view, the officer now has every reason to search your car. In this type of scenario, law enforcement agents don’t need to obtain a search warrant. For you, there’s a huge chance you’ll be arrested. After all, the cops will surely find that stash of illegal prescription drugs you intended to bring to a friend.
Of course, the smell of marijuana can also lead you to charges regarding DUI. Even if you waited before you got behind the wheel of the car, you’re still going to have an issue.
Take it a step further. Now that you get the concept of the plain view doctrine, it’s somewhat easy to understand the logic behind the plain smell doctrine.
Plain Smell Doctrine and DWI/DUI Cases
The plain smell doctrine operates under the same theory. Consider a case decided by the New Jersey Appellate Division last year. In that matter, the police stopped the defendant because he outfitted his car with tinted windows.
When local police officers pulled over the motorist, they smelled marijuana. They used the plain smell doctrine to justify their warrantless search of the vehicle. The cops discovered less than fifty grams of weed and charged the defendant with possession.
In presenting a legal defense, the accused attempted to suppress the evidence based on the way it was acquired. When the suppression request was denied, the defendant pled guilty.
From all appearances, the motorist had second thoughts about his plea. He appealed the case claiming that the police officer failed to establish probable cause and was therefore “not legally in the smelling area at the time he purportedly smelled contraband.”
The defendant based his assertion on the fact that the officer intruded in the vehicle. According to the policeman, he poked his head in the window to better hear the motorist. There was no indication that the law enforcement agent’s intent was to sniff for the smell of marijuana.
For the most part, marijuana lets off a recognizable smell. The same holds true for someone who imbibes alcoholic beverages in any quantity. Are either reasons that justify a warrantless search?
The short answer relies on the credibility of the officer who suspects something is wrong because of plain smell. Since the testimony represents a subjective opinion, it may be useful in a criminal defense.
The Law Offices of Beninato & Matrafajlo has extensive experience in representing those charged with DUI and DWI. Don’t take a chance of going into court alone. Give us a call to see how we can help you.