Colorado v. ZunigaAnnotate this Case
A Colorado State Trooper stopped the vehicle in which Victor Zuniga was riding as a passenger. The vehicle was carrying over a pound of raw marijuana and marijuana concentrate. Zuniga was ultimately charged with two counts of possession with intent to manufacture or distribute marijuana or marijuana concentrate. Zuniga pled not guilty, and moved to suppress, arguing that the seized marijuana was the fruit of an illegal detention and search. In particular, Zuniga argued: (1) the Trooper lacked reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle in the first place; (2) the prolonged detention was unlawful; and (3) the vehicle search was not supported by probable cause. The trial court found that because marijuana possession was legal in certain circumstances in Colorado, and drug-sniffing dogs were unable to differentiate between legal and illegal amounts of marijuana, the court concluded there was no probable cause to search the vehicle because the Trooper could only speculate about the amount of marijuana he smelled. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that after a review of the facts, noting the driver and Zuniga's divergent stories about their time in Colorado, their "extreme" nervousness, the strong odor of marijuana and the drug-dog's sniff test, there was probable cause. Therefore, the trial court erred in suppressing evidence of the marijuana.