Thanks for your patience.
You mentioned that you believe the search of your car was unconstitutional. That may or not be the case. Let's review why.
First, in order to seize a person, the police must have a reasonable suspicion that some sort of criminal
activity is afoot. A "seizure" occurs when a police officer exercises his or her legal authority over a citizen (i.e. you or me) and the citizen does not reasonably believe that he can simply terminate the encounter and walk away.
Your car was parked in the alley way. If your car was parked in a "no parking" zone or was otherwise parked illegally, that qualifies as an act which would give the officer at least a reasonable suspicion to detain you briefly. That still doesn't give the officer a right to search your car, however.
The female officer ordered you to pull your car out of the street and into a private drive. That's clearly a seizure, but I think she had the legal authority to do that. She then ordered you and the passenger out of the car, but she can do that, too. The U.S. Supreme Court
has ruled that an officer can order the driver out of the car without any sepatayte justification during a routine traffic stop
, and that the same rule applies to passengers as well
. So far it looks as though the female officer was acting properly.
This is where I think the officer's actions become questionable. She claims she smelled marijuana. If there was no burnt marijuana in the car, and no one had been smoking in the car, it's hard to believe she could smell a small, personal-use quantity of marijuana. It might be different if someone had been smoking in the car or there was an ounce or more of fresh marijuana; maybe she could really smell it then.
At any rate, this is the point in the encounter which potentially has a big impact on your defense. You (or your attorney) need to file a motion to suppress or exclude any evidence obtained as a result of the search. Your claim is that the officer could not have smelled what she claimed she smelled given the remarkably small quantity of marijuana which was found in the car. Thus, because she manufactured her claim, her search was not based on probable cause but rather was a pretextual search.
You could also call the first officer as a witness at your suppression hearing. He came by the car, was very near to the car, and yet he didn't "smell marijuana" like the second officer claims she did. Since the second officer came along 30 seconds after the first, this makes it less likely that the second officer is manufacturing her claim of smelling marijuana.
So, your argument is that, without probable cause to search, the search was illegal and violated your fourth amendment rights. Thus, any evidence the police obtained after the point of the illegal act should be suppressed or excluded from evidence as fruit of the poisonous tree
. This evidence would be the marijuana, the knife, and your inculpatory statements to the officer.
If the judge decides that the officer is credible, however, and the judge believes that the officer actually did
smell marijuana in the car, then the judge will probably decide that the search was legal. Thus, the evidence of the marijuana and the knife could be used at trial against you. (In this case, if there was probable cause to search the car for weed, the officer had the legal authority to search the book bag and find the knife.)
As for your statements to the officer, you don't mention whether you were read a Miranda
warning (the warning of the right to remain silent etc.). A Miranda
warning is only required when you are asked questions by the police while in custody. If you weren't in cuffs, or sitting in a squad car, or held at the police station, or held at gunpoint by the police, you weren't in custody. So, your statements probably cannot be suppressed or excluded if the judge believes the officer actually smelled marijuana and didn't just make that up.
So, that's the fourth amendment aspect of your case. It all really boils down to whether or not the judge believes the second officer smelled marijuana.
Finally, as to your public defender, I'm sorry you didn't have a good experience. Try contacting this person again and see if you can have a full conversation with her. Explain your side of the story, tell her what your concerns are, and her what you want to do. Her job is to give you advice and to recommend a course of action. However, it is YOUR choice whether you 1) want a trial or plea agreement
, 2) want a judge or jury trial, and 3) want to testify or remain silent.
Remember you can always hire an attorney of your choosing. If you wish to do this, try the Maryland State Bar attorney referral service
. Someone there should be able to help.
I hope my response has been helpful. If you have follow-up questions or concerns on this topic, please ask. Otherwise, please rate my answer positively so that I can receive credit for my work. Doing so will NOT cost you any additional fee.