State v. Vennell
Case # A151670
Full Text of Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A151670.pdf
Defendant Vennell was a passenger in a vehicle stopped for a traffic violation. The driver consented to a search of the vehicle. During the course of the search, an 0fficer asked the defendant and the other occupants to exit the vehicle. When the occupants got out, the officer smelled a “strong odor of marijuana” that seemed to originate with the defendant. The officer asked the defendant for permission to search him and the defendant admitted to possessing marijuana and consented to the search. The officer located a bag of marijuana and methamphetamine paraphernalia during the search. Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence was denied by the trial court and the defendant ultimately entered a guilty plea, reserving his right to appeal, and was convicted for possession of methamphetamine. Defendant challenges the conviction arguing that the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress due to the officer lacking reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, therefore unlawfully stopping defendant and exploiting the unlawful stop by asking for consent to search the defendant.
The Court of Appeals states “that an officer must subjectively believe that the person has committed or is about to commit a crime, and that belief must be objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances existing at the time of the stop… A belief is objectively reasonable if it is based on specific and articulable facts.” The Court finds that the subjective element was met because the officer testified that he “could smell a strong odor of marijuana” that ‘was strongest around” defendant, and so [his] belief was that defendant was in possession of marijuana at that time.” The Court then finds the objective element to be met stating that the smell of drugs can support reasonable suspicion for a stop and that, in this case, “the officer’s suspicion was all the more reasonable because the officer smelled a strong odor of marijuana emanating from defendant specifically, indicating his possession of marijuana.” Because the officer could reasonably infer from a strong odor of marijuana emanating from a person that the person is carrying a large amount of marijuana the officer had reasonable suspicion for a valid stop of the defendant and the defendant’s subsequent consent to the search was voluntary and not the result of exploitation of an unlawful stop. Thus, the trial court did not err in denying the motion to suppress and the defendants conviction is affirmed.