LEAVE IT TO THE PROGRESSIVE STATE OF IOWA TO PROTECT A SMOKER’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS!
It doesn’t take an expert to realize that the legal climate surrounding marijuana is rapidly changing and developing. Legalization for recreational use in Colorado and Washington (who were joined by the District of Columbia, Alaska and very recently Oregon!) followed dozens of states legalizing for medicinal purposes, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice choosing to soften its stance on prosecuting low level drug crimes as well.
Expect even more states to consider changing the policies that came with the failed War on Drugs, with a few considering full scale legalization, and almost all of the current holdouts look to the legitimacy of marijuana as the medicine that many have known about for some time.
Regardless of the existing laws, however, marijuana for recreational use is still illegal under the current law of 46 states, as well as officially still illegal under federal authority.
Even in the states where it is illegal, though, there is some positive legal movement that can help you, me, and every other smoker out there.
The latest court to advance the cause of protecting individual liberty? …..The Iowa Supreme Court, of course!
In Iowa v. Gaskins, the Court held that under the very popular police ruse of search incident to arrest (referred to as the “SITA” exception throughout the ruling here), the particular circumstances leading to the search were unreasonable, and therefore violated Mr. Gaskins’ Constitutional Rights.
The specific issue in this case was a safe in Gaskins’ van that was locked and out of his reach.
He was arrested after the officer smelled burnt marijuana and a blunt was turned over. Gaskins was cuffed and placed in the back of the squad car and the officer proceeded to search the van. The officer opened the safe with a key from Gaskins’ key ring.
The reality of this ruling is that the van wasn’t necessarily immune from any search, just that “a warrant is generally required before such a search.” Specifically, if a locked container is plainly out of reach of the arrested person who is handcuffed and sitting in the back of a police car, the police may not conduct a search incident to arrest without a warrant.
This doesn’t mean that all of us knuckleheads should be smoking and driving around when in Iowa! Unless you are already arrested and cuffed in the patrol car, Gaskins will not apply to you. We can all agree that is not where we want to be before the Constitution steps in to protect our rights.
Regardless, an awesome ruling where the “I smelled pot so I searched your entire car without a warrant or your consent” is no longer allowed absent specific circumstances.
See the full text of the decision here – http://www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/Supreme_Court/Supreme_Court_Opinions/Recent_Opinions/20150630/13-1915.pdf