Chesapeake, VA. - When it comes to marijuana, the nose knows.
Even in a moving car. Even with the windows up.
Police officers in Chesapeake have been pulling over cars on the grounds that they smelled marijuana while cruising down local roadways, defense attorneys say. And according to the testimony of one officer, it's become common practice to try to sniff out pot from behind the wheel.
"We drive our patrol car with the vents on, pulling air from the outside in, directly into our faces,"
Officer Barrett C. Ring said late last year in court during a preliminary hearing, according to a transcript of the proceedings. "Commonly, we'll be behind vehicles that somebody in the vehicle is smoking marijuana, and we can smell it clear as day."
Before officers pull over a car to search it, he said, they will follow it until there are no other cars in the area and they are certain about the source of the odor.
Assistant Public Defender Matthew Taylor and several other defense attorneys question the officers' "supernatural" sense of smell.
"The idea that police can drive behind a car and smell marijuana is preposterous," said Taylor, who tried unsuccessfully last week to get Ring's search of his client's car thrown out of court. "What do we need drug dogs for if (people) can drive behind cars and smell marijuana?"
Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU in Virginia, agreed with Taylor, saying, "It stretches the imagination that the police can drive down the road and home in on a car." He predicted that traffic stops based only on an officer's sense of smell will draw more legal challenges in the future.