Frisking Car Passengers. Norman v. State

14923509448691552913892

Brief Brief.  Norman v. State, 452 Md. 373 (2017).

Issue:  Court of Appeals held that a police officer lacked reasonable articulate suspicion to search a car passenger, despite a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the car.

Quotes: 

Quote 1:
“Recently, in Robinson v. State, 451 Md. 94, 99, 152 A.3d 661 (2017), this Court addressed whether, in light of the decriminalization of possession of less than ten grams of marijuana, a law enforcement officer has probable cause to search a vehicle based on an odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. This Court unanimously held that:
a law enforcement officer has probable cause to search a vehicle where the law enforcement officer detects an odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle, as marijuana in any amount remains contraband, notwithstanding the decriminalization of possession of less than ten grams of marijuana; and the odor of marijuana gives rise to probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband or evidence of a crime.
 –
Id. This case requires us to decide a different issue involving the odor of marijuana emanating from a vehicle—namely, whether a law enforcement officer who detects an odor of marijuana emanating from a vehicle with multiple occupants has reasonable articulable suspicion that the vehicle’s occupants are armed and dangerous, and thus may frisk—i.e., pat down—the vehicle’s occupants for weapons.” (Id. at 378).
 –
 Quote 2:
…”We reaffirm our holding in Robinson, 451 Md. at 98–99, 152 A.3d 661, that the odor of marijuana alone gives rise to probable cause to search a vehicle because the odor of marijuana indicates that the vehicle contains contraband or evidence of a crime. We hold that, where an odor of marijuana emanates from a vehicle with multiple occupants, a law enforcement officer may frisk, i.e., pat down, an occupant of the vehicle if an additional circumstance or circumstances give rise to reasonable articulable suspicion that the occupant is armed and dangerous. Stated otherwise, for a law enforcement officer to have reasonable articulable suspicion to frisk one of multiple occupants of a vehicle from which an odor of marijuana is emanating, the totality of circumstances must indicate that the occupant in question is armed and dangerous. An odor of marijuana alone emanating from a vehicle with multiple occupants does not give rise to reasonable articulable suspicion that the vehicle’s occupants are armed and dangerous and subject to frisk.” (Id. at 379).
 Quote 3:
…”For the Fourth Amendment’s purposes, a “seizure” of a person is any nonconsensual detention. See Barnes v. State, 437 Md. 375, 390, 86 A.3d 1246, 1255 (2014). There are two types of seizures of a person: (1) an arrest, whether formal or de facto, which must be supported by probable cause; and (2) a Terry stop, which must be supported by reasonable articulable suspicion. See Barnes, 437 Md. at 390, 86 A.3d at 1255. During a Terry stop, for the sake of the safety of the law enforcement officer and others, a law enforcement officer may frisk a person who the law enforcement officer has reason to believe is armed and dangerous. See Sellman v. State, 449 Md. 526, 541–42, 144 A.3d 771, 780–81 (2016).
 –
A law enforcement officer has reasonable articulable suspicion that a person is armed and dangerous where, under the totality of the circumstances, and based on reasonable inferences from particularized facts in light of the law enforcement officer’s experience, a reasonably prudent law enforcement officer would have felt that he or she was in danger. See id. at 542, 144 A.3d at 781. Because a court considers the totality of the circumstances, the court must not parse out each individual circumstance; in other words, a court must not engage in a “divide and conquer” analysis. See id. at 543, 544, 144 A.3d at 781, 782. Indeed, a circumstance may be innocent by itself, but appear suspicious when considered in combination with other circumstances. See id. at 544, 144 A.3d at 782.
 –
Reasonable articulable suspicion is a commonsense, nontechnical concept that depends on practical aspects of day-to-day life; as such, a court must give due deference to a law enforcement officer’s experience and specialized training, which enable the law enforcement officer to make inferences that might elude a civilian. See id. at 543, 144 A.3d at 781. That said, although reasonable articulable suspicion is a lesser standard than probable cause, it must be greater than an inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch. See id. at 543, 144 A.3d at 781. And, a law enforcement officer may not frisk a defendant simply because the law enforcement officer initiated a lawful traffic stop. See id. at 545, 144 A.3d at 782.” (Id. at 386-387).
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