Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver, was arrested on Sunday night for possession of marijuana and speeding. The officer stopped Bowe for speeding and, upon contact, smelled the odor of marijuana coming from the car. The officer found 14.6 grams of marijuana in the car. Bowe had a passenger in his car who claimed that 4.2 grams of the marijuana was his, not Bowe’s. Unlike Colorado, Missouri has not legalized recreational marijuana use. Bowe was arrested and released on a $750 bond. He is set to appear in court on December 18. Bowe’s arrest came on the last day of the Chiefs’ bye week. Bowe practiced with the team on Monday to prepare for their Sunday night game against the Broncos.
It is not clear whether Bowe consented to a search of his car or if police had another legal basis to search his car without his consent. The Fourth Amendment of the constitution protects people from unreasonable searches, including searches of their vehicle. However, a person may always consent to a search, which gives police valid legal authority to search a car. Without consent, a warrant is generally needed to conduct a search. However, there are some exceptions to the warrant requirement. As it relates to cars, there is a specific automobile exception. The general idea behind this exception is that, because cars are mobile, it is easier for potential evidence within the car to be destroyed if police are forced to wait to obtain a warrant to conduct a search. The automobile exception does not give police absolute authority to search a car; certain requirements must be met and only certain places within the car may be searched, but the requirements to search a car are less stringent than the requirements to search other places, such as the home.
If it is determined by the court that police did not have a valid legal basis to search Bowe’s car, then the marijuana that was found in the car would be “fruit of the poisonous tree.” This is a legal term of art that means, but for the illegal search, the marijuana would not have been found. The consequence for illegally obtaining evidence is the prosecution cannot use the evidence to prove the charges. In Bowe’s case, if the marijuana cannot be used as evidence, then the marijuana charge would be dismissed.
Source: USA Today, Nov. 12, 2013, Lindsay Jones