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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > April 2016 > State v. Navarro, 2016 Ohio 749

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State v. Navarro, 2016 Ohio 749

Question: Does the odor of raw marijuana coming from a residence establish probable cause to obtain a search warrant.

Quick Answer: Yes, so long as the officer is qualified to recognize the odor.

Facts: An officer received an anonymous tip that Navarro’s residence was being used to grow marijuana. Having received other complaints about Navarro, he went to the area to conduct surveillance. Upon getting close to the residence, he smelled a distinct odor of raw marijuana coming from the residence. He also noted that all the windows were covered. Based on the information and his observations, he obtained a search warrant to conduct a thermal scan of the residence. The scan detected a highly abnormal heat signature coming from the residence, consistent with an indoor marijuana grow operation. Based on the scan results, the officer obtained a second search warrant to search the residence. The subsequent search revealed evidence of an indoor grow operation.

Navarro filed a motion to suppress the evidence which was denied by the trial court. He was convicted and appealed the trial court’s ruling, arguing the officer lacked probable cause to obtain either of the search warrants. The appellate court noted the anonymous tip alone would not justify the search. However, once the officer, who was qualified to identify the odor of marijuana, smelled marijuana coming from the residence, probable cause existed to support the warrant and subsequent search.

Keep in Mind: Officers should receive training in detecting the odor of raw and burned marijuana prior to using this as the basis to justify a search.