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It goes without saying, getting pulled over with cannabis is a daunting situation. Depending on the outcome of the encounter, you might end up with legal consequences, or you might get off scot-free.
Of course, everything depends on your own actions. Read on for 3 tips on how to have the best outcome with law enforcement while having cannabis or cannabis products with you.
Before we jump into things, we have to be clear that we are not lawyers, and we strongly advise that you never break the law. We are merely relaying advice from lawyers, and we take no responsibility for any legal consequences you may face.
#1 Know Your Rights
“If you feel that there is no probable cause, then you can refuse the search and say no, which is legal under the fourth amendment.”
Being a US citizen means that you have indispensable rights that you can use. When dealing with police, the fourth amendment is going to be your best friend.
The fourth amendment is a constitutional right that protects you from ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’. This is the right that you’ll need to use to defend yourself from an unwanted search of you or your vehicle.
The officers will likely use something called ‘probable cause’ to search you or your car. This phrase is something that gives police the right to search for drugs or weapons if they have the ‘probable cause’ to do so.
The problem with probable cause is that it’s subjective, and is up to the interpretation of the officers. If you get pulled over for speeding, that isn’t probable cause to search you for drugs.
However, law enforcement can usually come up with an excuse that falls under ‘probable cause’ just to search you. If you feel that there is no probable cause, then you can refuse the search and say no, which is legal under the fourth amendment.
Unfortunately, in Arizona and some other states, the “odor of marijuana” is still probable cause for a search even if you have your medical card. Another important thing to keep in mind is how you refuse the search, which brings us to our next important tip.
#2 Always Be Respectful and Have a Line Ready
“You need to speak as little as you can, without being rude or totally silent. It’s good to have a memorized line that you can repeat under pressure.”
When dealing with any authority, you need to be 100% respectful, even if they aren’t with you. The authority is the one with all the power in this situation, so you need to be courteous and neutral.
Do not, and we repeat, do not try to be disrespectful or have an attitude, even if you are justified in doing so. You will probably only end up making the officer angry, and the entire situation will become much more unpleasant for everyone involved.
As we said earlier, you can refuse a search, but you need to do so very carefully. Officers will usually become aggravated and try harder to ‘bust’ you if they sense that you’re trying to outsmart them or be argumentative.
You need to speak as little as you can, without being rude or totally silent. It’s good to have a memorized line that you can repeat under pressure. A good line to say is: “my lawyer told me not to allow police to search my car without a warrant.”
This line works well because it shows the officers that you know the law and that you have money and a lawyer to fight potential charges. Of course, you don’t actually need to have a lawyer to say the line.
Furthermore, it allows you to control the conversation without being argumentative. You’re just repeating a line that your (supposed) lawyer told you to say. If they try to press you more, you can keep repeating the line.
Most of the time, your refusal should work if there is no probable cause, no matter how angry or threatening they get. A lot of times they will give up because they know you can’t be pushed around.
However, this is all assuming that there is no probable cause, which you can prevent by following our next tip.
#3 Don’t Give the Police a Reason to Bust You
“Even if you are confident that there is no reason for them to search you, police are good at making people doubt themselves.”
The last thing you want to do is give the police probable cause, so always follow smart precautions. You should not look, act high, or be under the influence. There should be nothing visible, and there should be no smell either.
Many people are busted because they were careless and left a pipe, grinder, or other smoking paraphernalia in plain view. Make sure you have those things put entirely out of sight and don’t leave them lying around in your car. We recommend putting anything cannabis-related in the trunk or another locked compartment.
Make sure your eyes aren’t bloodshot red by using some eye drops. We certainly don’t recommend that you drive under the influence of cannabis, but sometimes red eyes last well after the high has faded or they can be completely unrelated.
Don’t smoke in your car ever, and try to keep cannabis odor off of your clothes. Chew gum or have a mint to avoid smoky breath, or better yet, stick to THC or CBD edibles. Keep your cannabis in a sealed container so that the smell won’t emanate out of it.
If you follow these precautions every time you travel, then you won’t need to worry as much about probable cause. You will still need to make sure that you don’t incriminate yourself, however.
Even if you are confident that there is no reason for them to search you, police are good at making people doubt themselves. They may ask you incriminating questions and act like they’re your friend and are just trying to help you out.
If they ask you to step out of the car, do so, but always make sure to close the car door. If your car door is left open, then the police can search your vehicle because you “let them in.”
Don’t be fooled into incriminating yourself and do not pretend the officers are trying to be your friend. Just repeat your line or tell them you are uncomfortable answering any questions without a lawyer.
Have No Fear
Most importantly, remain calm and don’t be afraid of the situation. The police might be persistent or make empty threats that have no legal bearing.
Many people will unintentionally incriminate themselves because they panic or are uninformed. If you remember these tips, you’ll keep yourself from getting into unnecessary legal trouble and have the courage to flex your constitutional rights.