A Pittsburgh-area woman's arrest on suspicion of drug crimes was triggered mostly by a smell in the foyer of the woman's apartment building. Though police say they seized more than five pounds of marijuana and a significant amount of hashish from the woman's apartment, officers' conduct may lead to a challenge of the evidence in court.
The officers came to the suspect's apartment building after a tenant in the building complained of a marijuana smell that the caller said was coming from the suspect's apartment. The officers said they detected the odor in the building's foyer. They then entered the apartment without a search warrant or the woman's permission.
The woman was in her bedroom and opened the door to see the police inside. She tried to shut the door but the officers "moved her out of the way," as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review put it. Inside were some pillows. The officers searched inside the pillows and found bags with a green substance inside.
At this point, the officers left and obtained a search warrant. They returned and seized the bags, which they said contained marijuana and hashish. They also claim to have found drug paraphernalia.
At this point, readers may wonder how the police officers were able to enter the woman's apartment without a search warrant. The officers seem to have acted on the odor of marijuana in the foyer but it is not clear how they were able to determine that the smell could only have come from the woman's apartment.
Beyond that, it is not clear how the officer felt justified to enter the apartment without getting a search warrant first. One common exception to the search warrant rule is where officers reasonably believe that evidence of a crime might be destroyed while waiting for a warrant, but there does not seem to be any reason to believe that was the case here.
Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Neighbors' complaints lead to Delmont drug charges," Amanda Dolasinski, March 14, 2013
· For more information about drug charges in Pittsburgh, please visit our drug crimes page.