- The Washington Times - Monday, December 16, 2002

ANNAPOLIS (AP) The state's highest court has further limited police drug searches, ruling that officers cannot search passengers for drugs solely because a canine smells narcotics in a car.
The ruling last week draws a distinction between passengers and the vehicle. It also draws a distinction between passengers and the owner or driver. The Court of Appeals ruled that a link must exist between the suspected drugs and the passengers before an officer can search passengers.
"A passenger in an automobile is generally not perceived to have the kind of control over the contents of the vehicle as does a driver," Judge Dale Cathell wrote in a case stemming from a 1999 drug arrest in Annapolis.
Defense lawyers say the ruling increases the protection of individual citizens.
"I think it matters to anyone who rides as a passenger with someone else," said Bradford Peabody, the assistant public defender who successfully argued the appeal.
The state attorney general's office argued that if a canine alerts police to the possibility of drugs in a vehicle, everyone inside falls under suspicion. Officials said that they'll consider asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
"It limits what the police can do," said Kathryn Grill Graeff, chief of the office's criminal appeals division.
The case stems from the arrest of Earmon Wallace Sr. on July 9, 1999, after a traffic stop in Annapolis. Wallace was one of four passengers in a car that was stopped for speeding and running a red light.
During the stop, a canine detected a drug odor. Officers who searched the passengers said that they found a plastic bag of crack cocaine that belonged to Mr. Wallace. He was arrested.
William Davis, an assistant public defender, argued during Mr. Wallace's trial two years ago that it was unreasonable to search a busload of riders in the event that a canine smelled drugs on the bus.
Mr. Wallace was convicted of possession with intent to distribute drugs.
He was sentenced to five years in prison, with 15 years suspended. His conviction was overturned by the Court of Special Appeals in February, a decision upheld Wednesday.

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