In July 2019, the Florida State Attorney’s Office announced to law enforcement statewide that sight or odor of marijuana alone no longer constitutes probable cause to search someone’s vehicle or property. This practice had been widely used to search cars for drugs, which often led to other criminal charges and convictions. If you’ve been arrested on marijuana charges and believe your Fourth Amendment rights has been violated by law enforcement, contact a marijuana DUI attorney immediately to determine whether evidence collected against you was obtained legally. If it wasn’t, some or all of it could be stricken, leading to a dismissal of charges.
Recently, Florida removed hemp from its controlled substance list, effectively legalizing it for commercial use. The State Attorney’s Office cites the similarities between marijuana and hemp in both smell and appearance, granting the presumption of innocence absent other factors.
In a letter recently sent to police departments throughout the Treasure Coast of Florida, State Attorney Bruce Colton wrote:
“The July 1 amendment to the definition of cannabis in Florida Statute 893.02 will require law enforcement agencies to develop new strategies for the arrest and prosecution of offenses involving cannabis…. Since there is no way to distinguish hemp from cannabis, the mere presence of suspected cannabis or its odor will no longer suffice to establish probable cause to believe the substance is cannabis. Law enforcement officers should, therefore, look for other evidence of illegality before taking any action that requires probable cause.”
In his letter, Colton further wrote:
“… the state will need to prove that the substance at issue has a THC concentration of greater than .3% on a dry weight basis. Neither the Indian River Crime Laboratory nor any other DEA-licensed facility in Florida currently has the ability to quantitate the concentration level of THC in suspected cannabis.”
Colton said that while currently there’s no way to test THC in the crime lab, it’s coming. His letter stated that a solution is in the works, which he estimated could be in hand by the end of the year. Until then, consult with a marijuana DUI defense attorney to find out whether your rights were violated.
In the meantime, according to WPTV 5, Martin County Sheriff William Snyder conceded that pot arrests will nosedive, at least temporarily, saying, “This agency and most agencies around Florida will not be making marijuana arrests. Until we have a lab that can test, law enforcement efforts around marijuana are dead in the water.”
The law change applies to scent and sight of marijuana. Some instances where the law doesn’t apply in Fort Pierce include the following scenarios:
Until THC levels in weed can be accurately tested in Florida labs, law enforcement must comply with the new law. If you’re facing related charges and believe this new law applies to your case, call an experienced marijuana DUI lawyer in Fort Pierce who specializes in search & seizure, Marijuana-related DUIs and other drug cases. Let the experienced defense team at Ohle & Ohle review your case and help determine whether there might be grounds for dismissal.
“I first hired him to defend me on a dui charge. We got the outcome we wanted on that. I then rehired him for new charges (possession of marijuana and paraphernalia) which resulted in a warrant being issued for Violation of Probation. I was scared to death, but Mike held my hand through the entire ordeal while maintaining effective and efficient communication with me throughout the entire process. He ended up getting those charges DROPPED and the warrant was redacted. He’s a life saver. I would never hire anyone other than him.”