Warrantless Search Based on Smell

The "Plain Smell" Doctrine

New Jersey has long recognized the Plain View Doctrine as an exception that allows police to conduct a search, seize property and/or make an arrest without a warrant. A lesser known exception to the Warrant Requirement is the so called Plain Smell Doctrine. The crux of the principal is that, like a police officer’s sense of sight, items that are illegal and smelled by law enforcement, should be subject to immediate search and seizure. If you or a loved one was arrested following police smelling something, for example, marijuana, our lawyers can assist you in challenging the related arrest. The attorneys on our staff possess over 100 years of collective experience which is put to use on every case and a lawyer is always available at 1-877-450-8301.

NJ Law: Search as a Result of Smelling Drugs, Alcohol or Other Evidence

The rationale for this exception to the Warrant Requirement is founded on the ideal that a police officer’s sense of smell may also provide a basis for immediate recognition of criminal conduct and ensuing Search & Seizure. In accordance with State v. Judge, 275 N.J.Super. 194 (App.Div.1994), probable cause may be established where a police officer smells something like marijuana which, in his training and experience, creates the reasonable belief that a violation of law is being committed. The doctrine does not, however, permit police to conduct a limitless search. In this regard, police must possess not only probable cause to conduct a warrantless search but also Exigent Circumstances. As a result, where the accused nor third parties pose a threat of destroying evidence during the time lag to obtain a warrant, an exigency does not exist to permit a warrantless search beyond what was originally smelled. Such was the case in State v. Prompa, 414 N.J.Super. 219 (App.Div.2010) where a state trooper, who smelled marijuana in the tractor area, attempted to search the trailer of a trucker’s rig without obtaining a warrant.

If you believe police went too far in attempting to search or arrest you after smelling drugs or some other contraband, our lawyers are ready to help you. An attorney is available now to discuss your Monmouth County, Union County, Middlesex County, Ocean County, Essex County, Morris County, Passaic County, Hudson County or Bergen County case. We can be reached at 1-877-450-8301.