California’s Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that a warrant must be obtained before officers can open a suspicious package, even if it smells heavily of cannabis.
The ruling is based on a case that involved a young man – Kewhan Robey – who was arrested in 2010 after a package sent to him from Illinois to California was confiscated, and opened by police, because it smelled of cannabis. Police found 444 grams (nearly a pound) of dried cannabis flower, and arrested Robey on the charge of possession with intent to sell.
The California Supreme Court overruled this charge, setting legal precedent in the process.
“The fact that a sealed package smells of raw marijuana does not necessarily reveal that the package contains marijuana”, stated Justice Liu, who authored the group’s opinion paper on the case. In the paper, Liu cites multiple cases where the police pursued arrests based on the smell of cannabis, only to be proven wrong.
The legal effect of this new ruling is immediate.