If police say they smell marijuana coming from your vehicle, you’re in a tough situation. Courts have ruled that the odor of contraband gives officers probable cause to perform a search. For this reason, police are quick to claim that they smell something and sometimes they might even lie about it.

All you can really do is say, “Officer, I have nothing to hide, but I don’t consent to any searches.” If they search you anyway and something is found, you’ll need an attorney to help you fight the charges. Unfortunately, police sometimes use tricks like this to circumvent your constitutional rights and there’s no perfect way to handle the situation. Of course, they are most likely to do this if they are suspicious of you for some reason, so do your best to stay calm.

In many cases, the officer will mention marijuana just to see how you react. If you appear nervous, the officer’s suspicions will escalate. Police often think they can tell by looking at you whether you’re a “pothead,” so be extra careful if there’s anything about your appearance that might draw their attention. How you dress and what kind of vehicle you drive is a personal choice, but police definitely look out for certain “stoner” stereotypes. If your look makes you stick out, you should think carefully about what items to keep in the car with you.

Finally, never smoke marijuana in or around your car. At Flex Your Rights, we hear many stories from people who’ve been arrested, and smoking marijuana in public places like vehicles is the #1 cause of avoidable arrests.