Lawyers Question Traffic Stops Based on Smell

Chesapeake police have a nose for marijuana. But some defense lawyers are questioning the police

Jake Browne, general manager of The Releaf Center, a Denver medical marijuana center, smells a marijuana bud in his dispensary on Thursday, July 29, 2010. The Releaf Center has 2,600 patients and is prepared to grow enough marijuana to stay in business, but Browne said many dispensaries won't be able to meet the requirement. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

April 23, 2012

Chesapeake police have a nose for marijuana.

But some defense lawyers are questioning the police's practice of pulling over vehicles based on an officer smelling the drug.

According to court documents, an officer said at a preliminary hearing last year that officers drive with the vents of their patrol cars open. Outside air is pulled directly into their faces.

Assistant Public Defender Matthew Taylor tells The Virginian-Pilot ( that the idea of officers driving behind a vehicle and being able to smell marijuana is preposterous. Taylor made an unsuccessful bid last week to get a search of his client's car dismissed.

ACLU-Virginia executive director Kent Willis expects more legal challenges in the future.

Chesapeake Police Department officials declined to comment.

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