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Drug offenses: If cops say your car smells like marijuana

When an Illinois police officer makes a traffic stop, there is no way to predict the ultimate outcome of the situation. Sometimes, an officer will merely issue some type of warning, such as telling a driver to slow down, then be on his or her way. Other times, however, what begins as a minor traffic stop may wind up with one or more people getting arrested and facing charges for suspected drug offenses.

Police pulled a car over just after 3 a.m. on a recent Sunday. The officer who approached the vehicle said he smelled marijuana. The driver and a passenger were detained while police searched the vehicle.

After completing the search, the two men were arrested and are now facing drug charges. The deputy who searched the vehicle claimed to have found 40 grams of prepackaged marijuana. However, just because criminal charges were filed does not mean that the accused individuals will be convicted.

An Illinois police officer saying he or she found a substance believed to be illegal drugs does not necessarily mean the court will hand down a conviction. Prosecutors case must prove (typically through laboratory testing) that a substance in question is marijuana, cocaine, heroin or whatever drug they claim it to be. A defendant is guaranteed the opportunity to deny charges of suspected drug offenses and to present as strong a defense as possible in court. Some cases, in fact, never make it to trial if the court rules that evidence is lacking to warrant prosecution or if a case is dismissed due to a violation of an accused individual's legal rights.

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