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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 Fort Pierce marijuana DUI defense 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.

Why did the law change?

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.”


State crime labs not properly equipped

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 an experienced Fort Pierce marijuana DUI lawyer to find out whether your rights were violated.

Local ramifications

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.”

Are there exceptions?

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:

  • If Fort Pierce law enforcement suspects that a driver is high because of the way he or she is appears or acts, a sobriety test could be ordered, and an arrest could be made, just like in an alcohol-related DUI.
  • This new law does not apply to other pungent drugs, like smoked methamphetamine.
  • If a driver consents to a police search, the search is legal, and any evidence found can and will be used against him or her in court to secure a conviction.

What’s next in Florida?

Until THC levels in weed can be accurately tested in Florida labs, law enforcement must comply with the new law. If you’re facing pot-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.

Marijuana DUI FAQs
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Because hemp and CBD were legalized on July 1, 2019, and because pot and hemp smell similar, odor alone no longer constitutes probable cause to search a vehicle in Florida. Keep in mind; however, that if you consent to a search, it’s legal.
In Florida, possessing a medical marijuana card does not give a patient the right to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of anything that might impair judgment. This includes all forms of marijuana.
The punishments are exactly the same as DUIs: six months in jail, $1,000 in fines, loss of license for six months and community service. Jail time, fines and suspension can increase substantially after the first offense.
(772) 460-9801