the smell of marihuana alone may constitute probable cause to search a vehicle


DeMarcus Johnson was convicted after a jury trial of possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2) and sentenced to 50 months of imprisonment. Johnson appeals the district court’s denial of the motion to suppress the firearm that was found during a search of the vehicle he had been driving. The 5th affirmed. (This is all the facts provided in the opinion)


A warrantless search of an automobile is permitted by the Fourth Amendment if the police officers have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband. See Fields. In addition, where probable cause justifies the search of the vehicle, it justifies the search of every part of the vehicle and its contents that may conceal the object of the search. See SCOTUS California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565 (1991).

Given that a police officer testified that he smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle and that he observed an empty firearm holster in the vehicle, the officers had probable cause to search the vehicle. See United States v. Ibarra-Sanchez (this court has consistently held that the smell of marihuana alone may constitute probable cause to search a vehicle) and United States v. McSween (the detection of the odor of marihuana justifies a search of the entire vehicle which includes the area under the hood, where drugs may also be concealed).