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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Ector County police officer Raymond Baladez was called to the area of the defendant’s house, because people were complaining of loud music and cars speeding on nearby streets. Baladez saw two minors go into the house, and he found plastic cups in the driveway with alcohol in them. He knocked on the door and identified himself, and though he could hear people inside, no one answered the door. Nor would anyone answer the telephone when Baladez called. Shortly thereafter, Baladez got a call to investigate an anonymous tip of shots being fired nearby. Baladez left to investigate, but suspecting that the people inside the defendant’s house had made the call to distract him, he went back to the defendant’s house. He saw two minors attempting to drive away. He stopped them, and while talking with them, the defendant came out of the house and approached Baladez. The defendant smelled of alcohol and marijuana. She told Baladez that she didn’t answer the door earlier because she didn’t want to go to jail. Baladez followed the defendant back to her house. When the defendant opened the door, Baladez smelled marijuana inside. He stepped onto the door jamb to get a better look at all of the people inside, which also gave him a view of an ashtray full of marijuana cigarettes. Baladez entered the house, looked for other people, and noticed marijuana on the floor in a bedroom. Baladez arrested the defendant for possession of marijuana. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the marijuana evidence, arguing the warrantless search was an illegal search and seizure. The trial court denied the motion, but the 8th Court of Appeals in El Paso reversed. The court held that, according to State v. Steelman, 93 S.W. 3d 102 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002), the odor of marijuana alone does not constitute the probable cause necessary for a warrantless search and seizure of a home. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. The court disagrees with the appellate court’s reading of Steelman. The court finds that Steelman holds that “the mere odor of marijuana does not constitute the probable cause necessary for police to arrest someone for committing an offense in their presence.” There is a distinction between what is necessary to establish probable cause for arresting someone and the probable cause necessary for a warrantless search of a home. In Steelman, the court continues, it held that the odor of marijuana alone is not enough to allow officers to conduct a warrantless search, because a warrantless search of a residence is illegal, unless probable cause exists in combination with exigent circumstances. The court thus looks to see if there was probable cause, noting that the odor of marijuana could be an “element or layer” of that determination. Additionally, Baladez had observed minors under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and some of these minors told him they’d been smoking and drinking in the defendant’s house. The court also concludes that exigent circumstances existed, including the fact that no one answered the door when Baladez first knocked, two people tried to leave when he got called away, and he knew from standing on the door jamb that several people were inside who he would have to see and identify for his own safety. OPINION:Lawrence E. Meyers, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Price, Womack, Johnson, Hervey, Holcomb, and Cochran, JJ., join. Keller, P.J., and Keasler, J., concurred in the judgment.

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