US v. Palmer: Palmer was pulled over in Virginia because of too darkly tinted windows and the inspection sticker appeared to be fraudulent. Upon approaching the car, the officer noticed several air fresheners in the car, "some hanging in the passenger compartment and others plugged into the air-conditioning vents." The officer retrieved information from a couple of different databases that indicated Palmer was a gang member with a prior criminal record that included drug offenses. The officer radioed for a drug dog, then went to more fully examine the inspection sticker. In leaning into the car to do so (the back of the sticker is the best evidence of fraud, apparently), the officer smelled the odor of marijuana. Although the officer told Palmer he had grounds to search the car, he "wanted to be '110% sure'" and waited for the drug dog, which alerted on the vehicle twice. The eventual search uncovered crack cocaine and a firearm. Palmer is charged with drug and gun offenses, has his motion to suppress denied, and enters a conditional guilty plea.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the denial of Palmer's motion to suppress. First, it found that the stop itself was lawful, finding no clear error in the officer's conclusion that the window tint was too dark (indeed, measurement after Palmer was arrested showed the officer was right). Second, the court rejected Ring's argument that the officer expanded the scope of the stop before getting to the point where he smelled marijuana (and thus had probable cause to search). With regard to Palmer's argument that Palmer had no basis to "delve into his criminal record" because it was unrelated to the basis for the stop, the court held that to "describe that contention is to discard it" because an officer "is entitled to inquire into a motorist's criminal record after initiating a traffic stop." The information the officer received from the database about Palmer's prior record gave him reasonable suspicion (along with the other facts then known) that criminal activity was afoot. Those factors, in their totality, "eliminated a substantial portion of innocent travelers and demonstrated a connection to possible criminal activity."