Wednesday, June 12, 2024

In re Randy C. (5/03/2024) CASE OF THE MONTH : A marijuana blunt = “open container” = Probable cause to search YOUR car

In re Randy C. (2024) 101 Cal.App.5th 933, Case #: A167331, 
Court: CA Court of Appeal, District: 1 DCA, Division: 5, 
Opinion Date: 05/03/2024 

We do not normally post CASES that are not LIFER or Resentencing (PC 1172) related but this case caught our eye for the CASE OF THE MONTH

Hitting the road for some fun in California? Great idea! But before you crank up the tunes and cruise down the coast, there's an important heads-up for drivers who may be enjoying recreational marijuana. California has an "open container" law that applies to both alcohol and cannabis. Even if you're not actively using marijuana, having an open container of it in your car can lead to a traffic stop and a citation. 


FACTS OF THE CASE  (Marin County):  SEARCH and SEIZURE - think again

 A marijuana blunt on the passenger’s lap was an “open container” within the meaning of HSC 11362.3(a)(4), which provided probable cause for the officer to search the passenger compartment of the vehicle. A minor was stopped by police for driving a car with illegally tinted windows. 

During the stop, the San Pablo Police Officer smelled unburnt marijuana and saw a blunt on the passenger’s lap. The officer conducted a search of the vehicle and found a handgun in the glove compartment and an AR-15 rifle in the trunk. 

On appeal, the minor argued that the marijuana blunt was not an “open container” within the meaning of section 11362.3, and thus could not provide the officer with probable cause. 

The Court of Appeal rejected the argument, finding that the plain meaning of an “open container” is one in which there is no barrier to accessing the marijuana inside. Here, the blunt was an open container because the paper wrapping enclosing the marijuana presented no barrier to accessing the marijuana. 



The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: