A driver told Coral Springs police that just because he had the “weed smell” on his body, it wasn’t enough reason for officers to search his car for drugs, according to an arrest report.
“You don’t have a right to search my vehicle because the weed smell is on me, not in my car,” Andrew George Benitez, 19, was quoted as saying in the arrest report.
Coral Springs police disagreed: They say they had the authority to lawfully inspect Benitez’s car on Tuesday night as soon as an officer smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle.
“If you smell marijuana, it gives you probable cause to search the vehicle,” Coral Springs police spokesman Lt. Joe McHugh said Thursday. “The officer detected the marijuana.”
Benitez, who lists a Deerfield Beach address, was taken into custody on the charge of possession of cannabis and driving with improper/unsafe equipment, the arrest report said.
The Broward Public Defender's Office, which is representing Benitez, said it was too early to comment, given the arrest happened Tuesday. Benitez has since been freed from jail without having to post a bond.
About 11 p.m. Tuesday, Benitez was pulled over in a black Honda in the 10900 block of Westview Drive, according to an arrest report.
He was stopped because the car’s driver-side headlight wasn’t working, the report said. Before the officer spoke to the driver, Benitez told him, “I know the headlight is out,” the report said.
But while talking to Benitez, the officer said he noticed “the smell of fresh cannabis coming from inside the vehicle,” the report said.
When the officer asked if anything illegal was in the Honda, such as weapons or drugs, Benitez replied, “You don’t have a reason to search my car,” the report said.
The officer told Benitez that the Honda smelled like marijuana, to which Benitez replied, “My car does not smell like weed. I know that because I had it detailed today,” the report said.
An additional police officer then arrived and used a drug-sniffing police dog around the vehicle, the report said. It led police to find marijuana in the car trunk, the report said.
Benitez’s alleged remarks about his having a weed smell occurred as the officer was using the police dog for the vehicle inspection, the report said.
After his arrest, Benitez allegedly admitted to police that he and a friend had pooled their money to buy the marijuana for personal use, the report said.