Police turning minor traffic stops into full-blown searches for marijuana have been a frequent source police-community friction. Numerous exceptions to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement have often left motorists at the mercy of police intent on carrying out a complete search of the driver and the vehicle. Because courts have held that an odor of marijuana provides grounds for a warrantless search, unscrupulous officers know that they can get away with an otherwise unjustifiable search by claiming that they smelled marijuana, a claim that is difficult to refute with objective evidence. In this case, where Loveland police turned a minor traffic stop into a full-blown search (that turned up nothing), ACLU attorneys were prepared to prove that a Loveland police officer fabricated his report that he smelled marijuana. No drugs were found, and a drug dog brought to the scene failed to alert. The City of Loveland agreed to a monetary settlement, avoiding the need for litigation.

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Sara J. Rich, ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney; Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado Legal Director