MIAMI, FL – October 30, 2019 – GrayRobinson's Miami law firm office white collar criminal defense attorney Drew Sarangoulis, associate, was quoted in the South Florida SunSentinel article, "Pulled Over with Medical Marijuana? What Drivers Should Know in Florida." The article discusses the potential criminal implications of driving with cannabis products.
In light of recent legislative and policy changes throughout Florida, Florida law enforcement agencies and prosecutors have increased the threshold to search driver’s vehicles. However, that does not mean drivers in possession of cannabis products, even with a valid medical marijuana card, are in the clear as law enforcement officers may determine that the driver appears to be driving under the influence.
If stopped by the police when you have cannabis or hemp products in your car, the key is to not give the officer any reason to believe you are under the influence says Sarangoulis. "When transporting marijuana or hemp products and stopped for any reason by law enforcement, it's important not to give them any reason to think you're driving under the influence. Respond coherently, and if asked for medical marijuana card, driver's license and registration, give it," he says.
Because hemp, which is now legal in Florida, looks and smells like marijuana, when police stop a driver and observe a substance in the vehicle, the officer has no ability to determine if the substance is hemp or marijuana in the field. Sarangoulis warns that if you are stopped by police while in possession of cannabis, "don't make any statements to police indicating the substance in question is marijuana."
Police can still find what they call "probable cause" to search a vehicle or even arrest a driver who appears to be "under the influence" of marijuana. "Even if legitimately transporting or in legal possession of hemp, and the police have probable cause because of outside circumstances – you're nervous, you have cash on hand – they can still seize that hemp to determine if it is indeed hemp," Sarangoulis says. Most South Florida law enforcement agencies say they are using an "odor-plus standard" to determine probable cause to search a vehicle. This approach requires officers to obtain evidence beyond what seems like the scent of marijuana.
Read the full article here.