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When it comes to driving with marijuana in your car, your rights will vary by state. Obviously, in states where marijuana is already legal, it’s a simple matter to transport marijuana. In states without marijuana legalization, on the other hand, a simple traffic stop can turn into a nightmare if the police officer involved suspects that you might be transporting marijuana. Every year, thousands of traffic stops across the country result in arrests for marijuana possession. While the statistics vary by county, much less by state, it’s evident that people who are guilty of possessing marijuana in their vehicles are more likely to be caught during a routine traffic stop than for any other reason. To avoid becoming one of those individuals, make sure that you know your rights ahead of time!

Your Rights At Checkpoints

If you go through a sobriety checkpoint, you may quickly start sweating. Sure, you aren’t driving under the influence; but you know that there’s marijuana in the console, and there’s every chance that the police officer who’s conducting the checkpoint will find it. If you find yourself in this situation, keep these things in mind:

  • You should never verbally admit to having marijuana in the car. If you tell the officer it’s there, you’re choosing to forfeit your right to remain silent.
  • Even if the officer asks you about marijuana or illegal substances in the car, you don’t have to admit to anything. You should have an attorney present before discussing anything with the police.
  • You don’t have to consent to a search. Also, be aware that ultimately, consenting to a search won’t help you to get out of charges down the road.
  • At a typical checkpoint, the police have to have probable cause in order to search your vehicle without your permission.

What this means for you—quite simply—is that if you keep your cool, politely and calmly refuse to consent to a search, and drive on through the check point when you’re released, you’re not likely to be caught.

On the other hand, if you’re passing through a border checkpoint, you’re automatically consenting to a search. At international borders, you consent to that search simply by driving across.

Smelling Marijuana

In most cases, if officers smell marijuana, they have probable cause to search your vehicle. Remain calm and repeat that you don’t consent to a search. While officers can use this scent as a reason to search your car, you don’t have to make it easy for them. Remember, they’ll be more likely to react harshly if you escalate the situation, so try not to become belligerent or difficult.

When Police Can Search

Police can search your car any time that they believe probable cause. Some police will bend the information on “probable cause,” but most of them will only search your car if they genuinely believe that you’re in possession of illegal substances. In order to avoid this situation, says Traffic Attorney Isaac Abraham, follow these tips:

  • Don’t drive under the influence
  • Avoid transporting marijuana where it can easily be seen
  • Remain calm and respectful when pulled over

The Future

As marijuana is legalized in increasingly more states, it becomes more likely that the holdout states will impose harsher penalties for being caught with marijuana. States that legalize marijuana will obviously have no problem with its transportation, but those that have voted to keep the substance illegal will look for more opportunities to remove it from circulation.


When possible, avoid driving with marijuana in your car in states where it is not yet legal. When you must drive with it, keep it out of sight, preferably in a location that you won’t need to open in the event of a routine traffic stop or checkpoint. Keep your cool. If you appear nervous, officers will be more likely to come up with a reason to search your car. Above all, be respectful and courteous while refusing to consent to a search or giving up any of your rights. In the end, this will keep you safe during routine stops.

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