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Sep 12 - Officers Said They Smelled Pot. The Judge Called Them Liars.


 


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 7 days ago '17        #1
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Jdog168  34 heat pts34
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Sep 12 - Officers Said They Smelled Pot. The Judge Called Them Liars.
 

 
Police officers can often justify a search with six words: “I smelled an odor of marijuana.”

Courts in New York have long ruled if a car smells like marijuana smoke, the police can search it — and, according to some judges, even the occupants — without a warrant.

But in late July, a judge in the Bronx said in a scathing opinion that officers claim to smell marijuana so often that it strains credulity, and she called on judges across the state to stop letting police officers get away with lying about it.

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“The time has come to reject the canard of marijuana emanating from nearly every vehicle subject to a traffic stop,” Judge April Newbauer wrote in a decision in a case involving a gun the police discovered in car they had searched after claiming to have smelled marijuana.

She added, “So ubiquitous has police testimony about odors from cars become that it should be subject to a heightened level of scrutiny if it is to supply the grounds for a search.”

It is exceedingly rare for a New York City judge to accuse police officers of routinely lying to cover up illegal searches, but Judge Newbauer’s decision does exactly that. Her decision also shows how marijuana’s status as contraband remains deeply embedded in the criminal justice system, even as the police and prosecutors have begun to wind down arrests and prosecutions for marijuana.

At the height of the stop-and-frisk era, nearly a decade ago, the police were arresting some 50,000 New Yorkers a year for low-level marijuana offenses, more than 85 percent of whom were black or Hispanic. The arrests have since plummeted, but the presence of a marijuana odor — real or purported — still serves as a justification to detain people and search them, sometimes leading to the discovery of more serious contraband, including guns, police officers and lawyers say.

One woman who served on a grand jury in Brooklyn late last year recalled hearing officers in three separate cases claim to have “detected a strong odor of marijuana” and use it as justification for a stop or a search.

“They said it very formulaically,” the woman, Batya Ungar-Sargon, who is the opinion editor at The Forward, recalled.

Such testimony can be the final word on whether a search was lawful or unconstitutional, especially in New York. Some other states have more stringent rules. North Carolina, for instance, does not allow the smell of pot to justify a search of the occupants of the vehicle.

In 2016, a federal judge in Rochester concluded that the rule in New York was unconstitutional and that New York judges had been wrong to allow such searches. But that decision has had little bearing in New York City.

Lawmakers in Albany considered intervening this year: A marijuana legalization bill under debate specifically forbade officers from relying on the “odor of cannabis” for some searches. The bill did not pass. Instead, lawmakers opted to reduce the penalties for possessing or smoking marijuana.

Car stops have become an increasingly important part of the New York City department’s patrol strategy ever since political pressure began forcing the department to back away from stopping and frisking black and Hispanic men in large numbers, police officers say.

Looser enforcement and more lenient penalties have made the open use of marijuana — along with its unmistakable, pungent scent — more common on city streets and elsewhere.

Still, several officers said in interviews that they had doubts their colleagues consistently told the truth about what they had smelled. “Certain cops will say there is odor of marijuana, and when I get to the scene, I immediately don’t smell anything,” one Bronx officer, Pedro Serrano, said in a 2018 article in The New York Times. “I can’t tell you what you smelled, but it’s obvious to me there is no smell of marijuana.”

In an interview last month, Officer Serrano said he still believed that to be the case. Officer Serrano, who currently works a desk job and is not out on patrol, is one of several current and former officers suing the Police Department over what they describe as arrest quotas.

A Manhattan detective, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the department, said it would be very difficult to prove what an officer did or did not smell.

But the detective said he had come to believe that some officers, particularly in plainclothes units, lied about having smelled marijuana because of how frequently he heard it used as justification for a search.

In recent years, at least five other judges have concluded in individual cases that officers likely lied about smelling marijuana to justify searches that turned up an unlicensed firearm, according to court documents. These judges came to doubt the police testimony for a range of reasons, such as discrepancies within an officer’s account or among officers, according to a review of the five decisions.

These judges have generally questioned only the credibility of individual officers in individual cases. Judge Newbauer’s claim was much broader: that there is widespread lying.

A Police Department spokesman, Al Baker, rejected that a*sertion as untrue. He noted that marijuana “gives off a distinctive and pervasive odor.”

“We recognize that judges arrive at their decisions with their own sets of values and insights informed by life experiences,” Mr. Baker said in a statement. “Nonetheless, we categorically reject the judge’s baseless a*sertion in this case and refute her sweeping a*sertion that police officers routinely fabricate that the odor of marijuana is present in every vehicle they stop.”

The case that led Judge Newbauer — who was a public defender before ascending to the bench — to make this claim involved a car stop in the Bronx on March 24, 2017. A plainclothes officer, Daniel Nunez, testified that “he noticed a strong odor of burning marijuana” while approaching the vehicle, according to the decision. Officer Nunez testified that he observed three small bags of marijuana perched atop the center console — which the police photographed, according to the decision.

While searching the trunk, Officer Nunez discovered a gun.

Judge Newbauer concluded that Officer Nunez’s account was riddled with falsehoods. She decided the photograph of the bags of marijuana neatly arranged was likely staged. She noted that one of the two defendants, Jesse Hill, had testified that the marijuana had been discovered when officers searched the pockets of the other man who had been in the car with him.

Gaynor Cunningham, a Legal Aid lawyer who represented Mr. Hill’s co-defendant, said the ruling “recognizes an all-too-common practice of dishonesty that police officers employ to circumvent the law to manufacture a ‘legal search.’”

Mr. Baker, the Police Department spokesman, said Officer Nunez had acted lawfully.

Barry Kamins, a former New York City judge and an authority on search and seizure law in New York, said Judge Newbauer was “the first judge to really express an opinion about this type of scenario.” He said the opinion brought to mind a court decision from 1970, in which a judge accused New York City police officers of lying in a similar fashion.

That case dealt with “dropsy” testimony, in which officers testified they had seen the defendant throw down a small bag of drugs in an attempt to ditch the evidence as the police approached.

Such testimony spiked after a landmark Supreme Court decision required courts to suppress evidence gained from an illegal search. Officers no doubt did catch people trying to discard evidence. But there was widespread suspicion that officers sometimes made up “dropsy” testimony rather than admit they had searched someone unlawfully.

Yet even though officers were likely lying at least some of the time, it was all but impossible to figure out if they were lying “in any particular case,” one judge, Irving Younger, wrote in the 1970 opinion.

“Our refusal to face up to the ‘dropsy’ problem soils the rectitude of the administration of justice,” he concluded.

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41 comments
 

 7 days ago '17        #2
Timberwolves  122 heat pts122
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is this a glitch in the matrix

judge calling out a cop?
+67   

 7 days ago '11        #3
Sin  2271 heat pts2271
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I hope this is the beginning of a trend, cop have been using that lie for decades to harass law abiding citizens because they’re bored and think i look suspicious simply for driving at night
+50   

 7 days ago '18        #4
LuxuriousGreen  4 heat pts4
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1312
+4   

 7 days ago '17        #5
LazyLeg 
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 Sin said
I hope this is the beginning of a trend, cop have been using that lie for decades to harass law abiding citizens because they’re bored and think i look suspicious simply for driving at night
It sounds good in theory but if they really want to search your car now they'll just say the smell bud then go the extra step of calling the dogs and making them hit on your car and search it anyway

Will it cut down on searches? Probably but if they want to search it they're still going to search it
+9   

 7 days ago '04        #6
deziking  124 heat pts124
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What will these pigs think of next? Oh I see your pupils are dilated I need to search that sh*t.
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 7 days ago '04        #7
ItAlY2BkLyN  242 heat pts242
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plus isn't it legal in NY now
+7   

 7 days ago '19        #8
AshyFeet 
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bi*ch def knew the n*gga that got caught up since they found a piece in the whip anyway maybe if you god damn junkies who swear they ain’t addicted to this hallucinogenic plant actually became useful members of society instead of gangbanging and stealing to feed your fiendish habits then you wouldn’t be getting capped on by the pigs

Double entendre don’t ask me how
-25   

 7 days ago '19        #9
Witness102  19 heat pts19
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I don't know why they even need drug sniffing dogs when they seem to already have enough drug sniffing pigs.
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 7 days ago '17        #10
The Almighty240 
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Damn a judge finally using common sense? Hopefully more judges follow her lead
+7   

 7 days ago '07        #11
yolaboy  205 heat pts205
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The Supreme Court ruled that an officer’s ignorance of the law essentially didn’t matter — effectively allowing police around the country the ability to make stops if they ‘reasonably’ believe the cause for the stop is legal.
lawyers have to go to school for 7 years and then pass a bar exam

local law enforcement has a total of 6 months of training

and the courts say that law enforcers don't even need to know the laws and can make them up on the fly

the irony in having people who are supposed to enforce laws, but don't know the laws, routinely break them and oppress anyone who does is the ultimate oxymoron
+18   

 7 days ago '11        #12
awww  141 heat pts141
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You weed smokers really make me sick I’m going to get rid of all the weed in the world I bet you that, so tired of y’all getting away with sh*t fu*k weed man I’m so fu*king upset you just don’t know
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 7 days ago '15        #13
iTrianglelevel3 
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She noted that one of the two defendants, Jesse Hill, had testified that the marijuana had been discovered when officers searched the pockets of the other man who had been in the car with him.




so they actually had flower on them. what a sstupid fu*king example to use.
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 7 days ago '07        #14
yolaboy  205 heat pts205
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 iTrianglelevel3 said
so they actually had flower on them. what a sstupid fu*king example to use.
just because he had some in his pocket, doesn't mean they smelled it

it's great example to use because cops can just say they smelled it and then hope they get lucky
+6   

 7 days ago '07        #15
Jeet Kune Do  13 heat pts13
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 awww said
You weed smokers really make me sick I’m going to get rid of all the weed in the world I bet you that, so tired of y’all getting away with sh*t fu*k weed man I’m so fu*king upset you just don’t know
Your schtick is old and boring like your wifes pu**y
+8   

 7 days ago '16        #16
Jody  38 heat pts38
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fu*k weed
-2   

 7 days ago '11        #17
awww  141 heat pts141
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 Jeet Kune Do said
Your schtick is old and boring like your wifes pu**y
No n*gga my sh*t global and you mad just watch and learn. I’m going down in history
-6   

 7 days ago '15        #18
jharlem0500  19 heat pts19
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 Sin said
I hope this is the beginning of a trend, cop have been using that lie for decades to harass law abiding citizens because they’re bored and think i look suspicious simply for driving at night
I refuse to drive until my situation is over.


Won’t pull me over and get me violated on some bullsh*t
+5   

 7 days ago '09        #19
messy marv stan  topics gone triple plat - Number 1 spot x1
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 awww said
No n*gga my sh*t global and you mad just watch and learn. I’m going down in history

you havent even seized 1 seed of bamner
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 7 days ago '13        #20
818digi 
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They will have her head on a platter... you do not go against the system and you don’t call out wrong doing by cops in public. She committed career suicide.

 7 days ago '17        #21
Wavie Crockett  2 heat pts2
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fu*k weed
-6   

 6 days ago '07        #22
yolaboy  205 heat pts205
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 awww said
No n*gga my sh*t global and you mad just watch and learn. I’m going down in history
+5   

 6 days ago '05        #23
pippen33 
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 818digi said
They will have her head on a platter... you do not go against the system and you don’t call out wrong doing by cops in public. She committed career suicide.
She did not commit career suicide. She was appointed by Cuomo. Unless NY gets taken over by Republicans then she will be fine
+4   

 6 days ago '05        #24
projectd06  3 heat pts3
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 LazyLeg said
It sounds good in theory but if they really want to search your car now they'll just say the smell bud then go the extra step of calling the dogs and making them hit on your car and search it anyway

Will it cut down on searches? Probably but if they want to search it they're still going to search it
A step in the right direction i guess. Ive had 5-10 cops threaten to bring the dog and ive never actually had it happen. They usually walk back to the car and just tell me to get out and say they didnt need the dog. If they want to they will search you.
+4   

 6 days ago '05        #25
projectd06  3 heat pts3
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 awww said
No n*gga my sh*t global and you mad just watch and learn. I’m going down in history of boxden
Fixed
+6   



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