State v. William
Police may search motor vehicles, without a warrant, provided that probable cause of criminal activity exists. Allegedly, Police Officer Aaron LaTourette observed the defendant, Christopher William, make a left turn into an "exit only" driveway, turn around and turn right. William allegedly exceeded the speed limit by 15 miles per hour. LaTourette allegedly observed William activate his left turn signal and then his right turn signal, before turning right. William responded to LaTourette's signal to pull over. LaTourette allegedly smelled marijuana and called for a K-9 patrol dog. Officer McFadden brought his K-9, which allegedly sniffed the motor vehicle and sat when she reached the front passenger door. In 18 months of service, McFadden's K-9 dog had indicated positive alerts approximately 51 times, all of which had been valid. William admitted that he had marijuana. Officers discovered marijuana under the passenger seat. William filed a motion to suppress and for judgment of acquittal, arguing that the "exit only" sign was not a valid traffic sign and that police lacked probable cause to conduct a traffic stop and warrantless search. The court found that LaTourette possessed a reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminal activity or a traffic violation, because William allegedly entered the driveway in the wrong direction and drove 15 miles per hour faster than the speed limit. "Because Officer LaTourette smelled marijuana from the defendant's vehicle after properly stopping it," wrote the court, "a reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminal activity existed for Officer McFadden to conduct the canine sniff." No evidence existed that the K-9 sniff was excessively long or intrusive. The court was not persuaded that the K-9 sniff violated William's constitutional rights. William also failed to prove McFadden threatened William. Allegedly, McFadden said, "I'll give you one last chance. Do you have any pot in the car?" The state established that the search was valid pursuant to the automobile exception to the warrant requirement, because LaTourette smelled marijuana and the K-9 provided a positive alert. The court entered guilty verdicts and ordered William to pay $150 for possession of marijuana and $90 for violating traffic rules.