People v. McGee (2020) 2020 Cal. App. LEXIS 779

Traffic Stop; Odor of Marijuana; Probable Cause; Automobile Exception

Traffic stop for expired registration. 2 LE approached the car from different sides and contacted driver and passenger. Both LE smelled the odor of unburned marijuana. Driver denied possession, but LE could see an unsealed bag of marijuana in the passenger’s cleavage. The vehicle was searched and a firearm found. Driver was convicted of felon in possession of a firearm.

The People only argued that the search of the vehicle was based on probable cause and not incident to arrest. The court held that probable cause did not exist based on what appeared to be a lawful amount of marijuana based on language in the Health and Safety code (supplied by the proposition that legalized marijuana for recreational use), but because the marijuana was in an unsealed container, LE had probable cause to search for additional contraband, based on the language that states that it is unlawful to possess an open container or open package of cannabis or cannabis products while driving, operating or riding in a vehicle.