When a New Jersey law enforcement official stops your vehicle and asks to conduct a search of it, that officer must have one of several things if you are unwilling to consent to a search. A warrant gives a law enforcement official a legal right to search your car. So, too, does having something called “probable cause.” Yet, some New Jersey residents do not completely understand what does and does not constitute probable cause.
Per NJ.gov, many New Jersey residents are unaware of whether an officer has a right to search your vehicle without your consent if the officer smells marijuana emanating from your vehicle. However, relatively new laws in place in the state offer clarification on the matter.
Why marijuana odor alone is not probable cause
In early 2021, New Jersey passed new laws dictating that the smell of marijuana, alone, is not enough to constitute probable cause. This means that just smelling marijuana does not give an officer enough to stop your vehicle or conduct a search of it.
What might constitute probable cause
If the officer who conducts your traffic stop has reason to believe you are driving while impaired by marijuana, this may give him or her enough to stop you and search your vehicle. For example, if the officer observes you swerving or otherwise showing signs of marijuana impairment, he or she may be able to move forward with a vehicle search without your consent.
Knowing your rights during a New Jersey traffic stop may go a long way as far as helping you avoid trouble.