Though cannabis legalization efforts across the world are getting stronger, the powers-that-be in the United States still seem to be on a witch hunt for weed smokers. Though many places in the country have legalized (medically or recreationally) or decriminalized bud possession, the laws are still thirsty to press charges on folks. With that noted, it’s best to stay woke if you happen to be driving through the state of Indiana and have some weed on you.The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled last week that if you are pulled over for a traffic violation and admit to an officer in the Hoosier State that you have possessed or consumed cannabis in the past, even if it was in a state where trees are legal, the cop is justified in conducting a vehicle search. Their rationale is that admission of past drug use may imply that there are drugs present in your car.
According to Kokomo Perspective, the ruling in question stems from the case of John Toschlog, who was pulled over by Valparaiso for a broken headlight shortly after midnight on August 22, 2016. He was traveling from Washington state to Warsaw, IN. Officer Ryan Sobierajski asked if he had any drugs in his vehicle, which Toschlog denied. The officer then asked if there had ever had any drugs in the car. Toschlog was honest and revealed that he possessed recreational weed while in Washington, where that is legal.
Even though Sobierajski didn’t smell anything suspicious or see any evidence any consumption or possession of weed in the car, he called in the K9 unit to search the vehicle. The drug-sniffing dog alerted the officer to the presence of drugs. When all was said and done, the authorities uncovered two grams of bud and a backpack containing the powerful psychedelic drug, DMT. Toschlog confessed that the drugs were his and he was hit with three misdemeanors (he was never charged for the busted headlight).
During Toschlog’s appeal, a panel of judges came to a 3-0 decision that his admission about having weed in the past gave the cops reasonable suspicion that he was engaging in criminal activity and that the U.S. and Indiana constitutions allowed for the K9 search.
An important point that the judges raised was that while police are allowed to inquire about unrelated criminal activity during a traffic stop, Toschlog had the right to not answer to officer’s questions about his history of drug possession in the vehicle. “His choice to do so and to disclose inculpatory information — i.e., that he had previously had drugs in his car — provided the officer with reasonable suspicion to believe at that point that Toschlog currently had marijuana in his vehicle,” ruled the judges.
Toschlog’s drug possession charges had been put on hold while he appealed and may stay that way, should he decide to take his case to Indiana Supreme Court for review. The lesson here is to keep your mouth shut until you have a lawyer with you when the cops start asking you anything.