State v. Cohen, 254 N.J. 308 (2023)


Dillon McGuire argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court on behalf of amicus curiae ACDL-NJ that the odor of marijuana did not provide a basis for searching the engine compartment or the trunk of a car pursuant to the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. Specifically, the ACDL argued that allowing officers to search a vehicle based on claiming they smelled marijuana but could not detect the source would lead police to falsely claim they smelled marijuana. Moreover, ACDL argued, the Court should suppress any non-drug evidence seized in a search initiated by smell and prevent any officer with knowledge of an existing investigation from searching a subject’s car without a warrant. The Court found that the officer's testimony that they smelled marijuana in the car and that they saw marijuana residue on the defendant's person authorized searching the defendant and the passenger compartment of the car. However, once that search did not reveal any contraband, and with no additional facts supporting searching the engine compartment or trunk, the search of those areas exceeded the scope of the automobile exception. Evidence seized from the engine compartment and trunk was ordered suppressed.

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