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Name: People v. Torres
Case #: B233368
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 05/02/2012
Summary

The strong smell of marijuana in a hotel hallway did not provide exigent circumstances justifying a warrantless entry into a room. Appellants pled no contest to burglary and grand theft after the denial of their motion to suppress evidence. Police were investigating the report of a burglary at a hotel when they were directed to a room in which hotel security believed the burglary suspects were located. At the door, police smelled marijuana. Officers knocked on the door and when a woman opened it, they directed the occupants to exit the room. During a protective sweep of the room property belonging to the burglary victim, as well as marijuana ashes, were found. The trial court found the protective sweep rationale did not permit the warrantless entry of the room, but that the entry was justified by exigent circumstances (the possible destruction of the marijuana). However, a warrantless entry into a home to preserve evidence from imminent destruction does not apply where the offense is a minor, nonjailable crime. Possession of less than 28.5 grams of marijuana is punishable by a fine. Here, the officers had no basis to believe the appellants possessed more than one ounce of marijuana based on the odor they smelled. Thus, there is no evidence that police had reason to fear the imminent destruction of evidence of a jailable offense. The belief that evidence of a nonjailable crime will be destroyed is insufficient to justify a warrantless search based on exigent circumstances. The judgment was reversed.