Commonwealth v. Grooms

In Commonwealth v. Grooms, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reviewed an order from the trial court denying the defendant’s motion to suppress drugs found in his car after a warrantless search. Two officers on routine patrol in a mall parking lot smelled marijuana coming from the defendant’s parked, unoccupied car. So, they broke into the car and recovered marijuana as well as other drugs. The officers did not see any contraband before breaking into the car. But since Commonwealth v. Gary, 91 A.3d 102 (Pa. 2014), was the prevailing law at the time, the defendant did not preserve a challenge to the officers’ failure to obtain a warrant. Instead, the only issue the defendant raised in his motion to suppress was whether, without more, the smell of marijuana established probable cause. At the time, medical marijuana was legal in Pennsylvania. The Court reversed the trial court. First, the Court limited its prior decision in Commonwealth v. Stoner, 344 A.2d 633 (Pa. Super. 1975), by holding that the plain smell alone of marijuana did not create probable cause to search. Then, the Court held that Commonwealth v. Barr, 240 A.3d 1263, 1274 (Pa. Super. 2020), was controlling. Barr was not decided when the trial court ruled.

KEITH-EDWARD-GROOMS