Although the legalization of marijuana is expanding across the country, Arizona is still a state where it is illegal. About half of all drug arrests are related to marijuana, and 88% of those arrests are for simple possession. While the best way to avoid trouble with the law is to not carry illegal substances on your person, there are still a few things you can do to protect yourself in the event you’re confronted by law enforcement and have marijuana in your possession.
Know Your Rights to a Bodily Search
Without reasonable suspicion that you’re carrying drugs, a police officer isn’t supposed to search your person without your consent. He or she may “ask” you to turn out your pockets, but unless they have a search warrant, have spotted paraphernalia or drug residue on your property (including inside of your vehicle), or have felt something hard during a pat down, you have the right to refuse. If the officer tells you that he or she has a warrant, you can ask to see it. If no warrant is presented, you might consider telling the officer that you do not consent to the search and request to speak to a lawyer.
Know Your Rights to a Vehicle Search
Just as in the case of a bodily search, a police officer cannot legally search your vehicle unless he or she has a warrant, reasonable suspicion (including the presence of drug paraphernalia), or your consent to conduct the search. The officer may order you to get out of your vehicle, and you should comply with this demand. Unless something is found on your person during a legal body search, a warrant is present, or the officer has a reason to suspect that you are in possession of illegal substances, he or she cannot legally search your property. You might consider telling the officer that while you have nothing to hide, you do not consent to a search, and then ask the officer if you’re free to go. If there are no grounds to hold you and conduct a search, the officer will usually let you go. You can also request to speak with a lawyer regarding your rights at any point.
By remaining silent you reduce the chance of incriminating yourself or offering “reasonable suspicion” by saying too much. The more you talk, the more prone you are to nervousness, stuttering, stammering, or stumbling over your words. This can lead an officer to believe that you are under the influence or that you have something to hide. It’s best to keep your responses to a police officer to a minimum, simply asking whether or not you are being detained or are free to go.