Do police have right to search car after smelling pot that doesn't exist? | News
News
INDY Week's news blog

Archives | RSS

Monday, January 19, 2015

Do police have right to search car after smelling pot that doesn't exist?

Posted by on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 1:44 PM

A Raleigh man has accused a police officer of an unlawful vehicle search after the cop scoured it for marijuana but came up empty.

However, since the man had crack in his pocket, he was arrested anyway—for trafficking and resisting arrest. He was convicted on both charges last January and sentenced to 35 to 51 months in prison.

This week Sharod Sorrell will have his case considered by the Court of Appeals. He argues that the crack evidence should have been suppressed since the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to go fishing into his car. The fourth amendment bans illegal searches and seizures.

Sorrell argues that the officer, Richard Sirianna, based his actions on the dubious claim that he smelled marijuana in his car. He further contends that the charge of resisting an officer was bogus, since citizens are free to walk away from unlawful investigatory stops.

Attorney General Roy Cooper's office counters that when a fleeing suspect voluntarily abandons property, that evidence is not subject to suppression. The office also maintains that Sirianna had adequate justification to detain Sorrell.

Sirianna and Sorrell were familiar with each other; on at least one separate occasion, Sirianna had searched Sorrell's car for contraband, and found nothing, according to a witness. 

The previous year Sirianna had received a Chief Citation for being in the top percentile for making drug arrests.

On the evening of June 11, 2013, Sirianna was patrolling the Dacion Road area when he heard loud music coming out of an apartment building, he testified. Sirianna traveled upstairs to the source of the music, knocked on the door but received no answer. Sorrell opened the door of an adjacent apartment and greeted Sirianna. Sirianna returned downstairs. 

Back in the parking lot, Sirianna smelled an "overwhelming" odor of marijuana odor emanating from a parked Cadillac, but couldn't determine if it was burnt or fresh, he testified. A window was open, and a cell phone lay on the inside console. Sirianna decided to wait to see if the car's owner would come retrieve the cell phone. He waited in hiding.

Shortly later, Sorrell came out of the building and entered the car. Sirianna revealed himself and twice commanded Sorrell to sit down, as this was now a drug investigation. Sorrell refused to comply. Sirianna grabbed Sorrell and ripped his shirt. A foot pursuit ensued. Sorrell fell to the ground. As he fell, he tossed a baggie filled with crack into a bush. Sirianna arrested Sorrell and confiscated the crack. He searched the Cadillac, but found no marijuana. After his motion to supress the crack evidence was denied, Sorrell went to trial.

Sirianna testified that he entered the apartment solely because of the loud music—and that it was "happenstance" that he smelled marijuana emanating from Sorrell's Cadillac afterward.

However, one of Sorrell's witnesses testified that she saw Sorrell look into the Cadillac with a flashlight before entering the apartment.

Another witness testified that Sirianna had twice stopped Sorrell in the past. On one occasion, she testified, Sirianna searched Sorrell's car but found nothing. On another occasion, Sorrell did not give Sirianna permission to search the vehicle, she testified.

In a separate argument, Sorrell contends that he shouldn't have been convicted of drug trafficking, because a chemist with the City-County Bureau of Investigation gave the opinion that the bag Sorrell tossed to into the bush contained the net weight of 5.5 grams of crack cocaine—less that the requisite 28 grams necessary for a trafficking conviction.

The Court of Appeals is expected to rule on the case later this year.
Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in News



Twitter Activity

Comments

It is about the guns, and the efforts of liberalsocialists to keep them out of the hands of victims.

by Pat Orsban on Politicians and the Gun Lobby Want You to Think Parkland Is About Something Other Than Guns. Don’t Let Them. (News)

Plenty of warning signs here. All ignored. No law would have stopped this. One law allowed the body count to …

by Pat Orsban on You’re Damn Right I’m Going to Politicize This Tragedy. You Should Too. (News)

Most Recent Comments

It is about the guns, and the efforts of liberalsocialists to keep them out of the hands of victims.

by Pat Orsban on Politicians and the Gun Lobby Want You to Think Parkland Is About Something Other Than Guns. Don’t Let Them. (News)

Plenty of warning signs here. All ignored. No law would have stopped this. One law allowed the body count to …

by Pat Orsban on You’re Damn Right I’m Going to Politicize This Tragedy. You Should Too. (News)

This should read "prescribe" not "proscribe," which has the opposite meaning.

by Jeffrey Vanke on Fox News Host Tucker Carlson Will Lecture UNC Journalism Students (News)

"There are fifty-five hundred residential units in downtown, up eighteen hundred from just a couple of years ago, and with …

by JeffG on DRA Report: Downtown Raleigh Is Still Killing It (News)

What does this clown know about journalism?

by John Sagar on Fox News Host Tucker Carlson Will Lecture UNC Journalism Students (News)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation