January 01, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Marijuana growing conviction reversed due to illegal stop of defendant---
Article provided by Samantha Johnson
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The United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, although police may, under certain circumstances, make brief investigatory stops if such a stop is supported by a reasonable suspicion that can be articulated by the officer.
However, there are limits even to such investigatory stops, whether indrug charge cases or any criminal investigation, as shown in the recent United States Court of Appeals case of U.S. v. Valerio.
Targeting a suspect . . . for shopping
The Drug Enforcement Administration targeted the defendant because he visited a hydroponics gardening store. The DEA was conducting surveillance at the store on the theory that customers might be growing marijuana.
After the defendant made some purchases, the agent followed the defendant's truck until he pulled over. The agent did not see the defendant again for two more weeks, when he returned to the hydroponics store. This time, the agent followed the defendant to a warehouse which he alleged was suitable for growing marijuana.
The next night, the agents conducted surveillance on the warehouse and noted that lights were on inside. A week later, a K-9 was brought on site and reacted at one of the doors, leading to search warrant. Nothing was found during the search.
Next, the agents went to the defendant's house and waited outside until he emerged and got inside his truck. With guns drawn, the agents blocked the defendant's truck with their vehicle and ordered him out of his truck. After questioning and a pat-down, the defendant admitted to growing marijuana inside a part of the warehouse that had not been searched.
The defendant was charged with growing 100 or more marijuana plants, but moved to suppress the evidence, based on the violation of his constitutional rights.
Was the driveway stop "urgent" . . . or legal?
The United States Court of Appeals explained that an "investigative stop" such as had been done in the defendant's driveway may only be used in certain circumstances, or if officers are dealing with a rapidly unfolding and possibly dangerous situation.
Here, the stop was not in response to a dynamic or urgent law enforcement situation. Rather, the officers stopped the defendant in his driveway approximately a week after observing any suspicious behavior. No exigent circumstances were created by the defendant simply leaving his home and getting into his truck. In addition, the government did not argue that the defendant was involved in any criminal activity at that moment.
Therefore, the seizure was unconstitutional under the circumstances, the evidence should have been suppressed, and the defendant's conviction on the marijuana charges was reversed.
Defending your rights
Law enforcement agencies can be very aggressive in pursuing drug charges. In addition, the penalties from a conviction can be extremely serious, possibly including significant prison time. If you are facing drug charges, you want an experienced criminal defense lawyer representing you, who will fight to maintain your freedom and ensure that your constitutional rights have not been violated.
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