Stopped by a Trooper-Marijuana

With the legalization of marijuana in many states adjacent to Idaho, Troopers from the Idaho State police are becoming increasingly aggressive in targeting out of state drivers during “routine” traffic stops. If you are stopped for a traffic violation by the Idaho State police you will invariably be questioned about your prior travel (the trooper will ask “where are you coming from today?”), your travel plans (the trooper will ask “where are you headed?”), and whether you have marijuana in your car (the trooper will ask “do you have anything illegal in your car that I should know about?”).

What should you do if the Idaho State police stop you for a traffic violation and begin questioning you about marijuana possession?

(1) Your first goal is to make your interaction with the Idaho State police trooper as brief as possible so you should have your identification, automobile registration (or car rental agreement), and proof of insurance immediately available. Give your identification and automobile documentation to the trooper immediately when the trooper approaches your door. Do not spend time rummaging for your documents. This only increases the time the trooper is detaining you.

(2) DON’T ANSWER QUESTIONS. The trooper’s seemingly benign questions “where are you coming from?” and “where are you going?” are NOT friendly conversation. The trooper has no right to know where you have been or where you are going. In fact, those questions are irrelevant to the traffic infraction (speeding, broken equipment, etc.) the officer is investigating. With these seemingly friendly questions, the trooper is attempting to develop suspicion and probable cause to search your car for marijuana.

(3) SHUT UP. Similar to the advice in (2) above, do not engage the trooper in any conversation. Ask the trooper about the reason for the stop and then STOP SPEAKING. Shut up. Don’t argue. Don’t explain. Don’t try to “talk your way out” of a traffic ticket. Everything you do or say will be looked upon with suspicion by the trooper and your conversation will increase the duration of the encounter. The trooper is not your friend. The trooper is trying to get into your car. Don’t give them a reason. Follow steps (1) and (2) above. Give the trooper your documents immediately. If the trooper continues to ask questions, politely tell the trooper you aren’t answering questions or discussing your travel plans.

(4) NEVER CONSENT TO A SEARCH OF YOUR CAR. An Idaho State police trooper looking for marijuana would like nothing more than to rummage around in your car, unpack your suitcases, your camping gear, etc., and make it look like you are having a yard sale on the side of the freeway. An Idaho State police trooper looking for marijuana will say “do you have anything illegal in your car?” and “do you mind if I search your car.” Do not fall into this trap. Do not answer questions. Never consent to a search. I suggest you say: “I do not consent to warrantless searches.”

(5) TAKE YOUR TICKET AND LEAVE. As soon as the Idaho State police trooper gives you your ticket or gives you a verbal warning and returns your driver’s license and paperwork. Ask the trooper “am I free to go?” Once you are told you are free to go, safely return to the roadway and return to your vacation. No talking. No chit chat. No goodbyes. Safely leave.

Remember, all forms of marijuana (even hemp!) are illegal in Idaho. Thus, if the Idaho State police trooper says he or she smells marijuana in your vehicle, the simple odor of marijuana in your car will justify the search of your car. Thus, if the trooper says there is an odor of marijuana in your car, remain calm, and remember the advice outlined above. Remain silent. DO NOT CONSENT TO THE SEARCH, but cooperate with the trooper’s instructions. In Idaho it is cold for most of the year. The trooper might ask if you and the other passengers in your car want to sit in his or her patrol car to keep warm. If you chose to do this, SHUT UP while you are in the trooper’s car. Everything you and your passengers say to each other while you are waiting in the car will be recorded and used against you.

Finally, if you are arrested or cited for marijuana possession in Idaho, telephone me and I can ably and aggressively defend the marijuana charges.

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