Friday, April 13, 2018

#Vanlife, Marijuana, and Your Right to Privacy

Is Bong Bear Probable Cause?
Millions of people have embraced a new way of living called Vanlife. A lifestyle that is mobile and free. Living out on the road they say "is simple but certainly not easy." I am fascinated by the legal ramifications of choosing a home life that is on wheels.

Is your reasonable right to privacy in danger by choosing van life?
Is your 4th amendment intact and upheld when the police want to search your mobile home?
Does the future hold challenges for those that partake in marijuana and van life?

Van life is More Than Living Out On the Road

People that live out of any car, truck, van, or RV make a huge lifestyle choice. While it appears to free them in many respects it also bonds them to their wheels. How much or how little they move from state to state and where the road takes them is a choice but at what cost?

Why Your House is Your Castle and Not Your Mobile Home

Your home, if it is a house has the maximum protection against illegal search and seizure.  By law the fourth amendment to the constitution states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Unfortunately nothing the original drafters contemplated was a mobile home lifestyle. You actually have more rights as a person walking down the street than you have in your van. Our houses when they are in fact our homes keep out government intrusion legally.

The Requirement for a Warrant Before Entry Into Our Home Lives

The government needs probable cause and then a warrant signed by a judge to allow the police access into our private lives. This would be for a specific search and for a specific reason and not some goose chase. But this is only true when our private life takes place inside a house, a fixed residence, an apartment or townhouse.

We semi-secure and blanketed from having our private lives made public by law enforcement because of the requirement of a warrant before a search. What happens when our home is mobile?

The Police Exception to the Warrant Requirement for Cars and other Mobile Vehicles

Necessity is the mother of invention so the government carved out an exception to the warrant requirement. During prohibition in the 1920s law enforcement needed some teeth to enforce the 18th amendment. Too many cars, trucks, planes, and boats were being used to transport alcohol. That was what birthed the exception to 4th amendment requirement for a warrant, the need to search for illegal booze.

Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132 (1925), was a Supreme Court decision that upheld the warrantless searches of an automobile, which is known as the automobile exception. The case has also been cited numerous times as widening the scope of warrantless search of any mobile vehicle including planes, trains, and boats.
If they encounter a mobile vehicle they can immediately search and seize by meeting the probable cause standard. By stating that since the vehicle is mobile the police do not need or have the time to get a warrant.

Home is Where the Heart is But it is NOT Private When You're Mobile 

The recreational and medical use of cannabis is increasing day by day across the country. At the same time we do not have a federal or national law that allows this behavior. Instead the DEA has marijuana as a class I controlled substance next to heroin and LSD.

Schedule I

Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:

heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote

What Happens if You Travel State to State with Marijuana?

Is this Probable Cause?
Cannabis is regulated at the state level but state licensure does not transfer from state to state as with other drugs and substances. If you have a license to use cannabis in California that license can't be used in Texas. You can easily transport and use your prescription for opiates and other mind altering drugs but not weed. I know it's hypocrisy at it's best but knowing your limitations may keep you out of trouble.

Even the Standards for DWAI Marijuana and DUI Marijuana Varies From State to State

I know of at least four different standard definitions for weed and driving. Driving state to state we have rules that govern driving behavior and marijuana use that are unclear. Some states you need to be proven impaired driving (like New York) while other states like Pennsylvania you just need to show presence of any illegal controlled substance in a person's system. This strict liability standard is scary because cannabis half life is long (sometimes 30 days). I don't believe you should not be guilty for the presence in your body of something you did three states and many days prior.

Some states have a any active substance standard of Delta 9 THC, while others have a metric (specific nanogram) on THC quantity in order to prove impaired driving. Since these standards vary so much the use of cannabis while moving about out on the road can be confusing and dangerous.

Once the police have a reason to investigate then the smell of marijuana can lead to a search. Searching your mobile home would be upheld as lawful because it is on wheels.