May 25, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Possibility of Innocent Explanation is Merely a Factor in Totality of Probable Cause Determination

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Zuniga on Monday, June 27, 2016.

Probable Cause to Search—Totality of the Circumstances—Marijuana Odor.

In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court and held  that the odor of marijuana is relevant to the totality of the circumstances test and can contribute to a probable cause determination. Even though possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is allowed under Colorado law, many marijuana-related activities remain unlawful, meaning the odor of marijuana can support an inference that a crime is ongoing. Under the facts of this case, the Court concluded that there was probable cause to search the vehicle for illegal drugs in light of the two occupants’ divergent stories about their time visiting Colorado, their “extreme” nervousness, the strong odor of raw marijuana coming from the vehicle, and a drug-sniffing dog’s alert.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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