After a lengthy court battle which ended up in the Michigan Supreme Court, Livingston County Chief Judge Michael Hatty signed an order vacating a citizen’s conviction for illegally manufacturing marijuana. The Supreme Court found that the police had violated the Fourth Amendment by conducting an unreasonable search and seizure which resulted in finding evidence related to marijuana cultivation. While marijuana is now fully legalized in Michigan, this case occurred back in 2012, when only medical marijuana was legal. A charge of illegal manufacture or distribution of marijuana was the felony charge that this man faced. The Livingston County Circuit Court originally denied defendant’s motion to suppress the marijuana evidence. Now with the Supreme Court’s ruling, the case was sent back to Livingston County Circuit Court which was left with no other option but to dismiss the case.
Original Case Details
The defendant in this case was charged with manufacturing marijuana when Michigan state troopers arrived at the defendant’s home to execute an arrest warrant for the defendant’s son. The state troopers alleged they smelled burning marijuana and forcibly entered the home without a warrant and found large amounts of marijuana. The police arrived at the home looking for defendant’s son without knowing if the son was even home. They were at most permitted to do a “knock and talk” to see if the son was in fact at the home. The troopers believed they had exigent circumstances which would allow them to enter the home without a proper search warrant.
Fourth Amendment Violations
The Fourth Amendment of the United States constitution guarantees that any person be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The typical way that the government is permitted to search or seize someone is when they have a warrant that alleges probable cause of a crime. Not every situation requires a warrant however, as the government can still legally search someone in a variety of ways. There are a variety of warrant exceptions that exist including, things like plain view, an inventory search or consent. The police officers in this case believed they had exigent circumstances to be able to enter the defendant’s home without a warrant. An exigent circumstance is one that is an emergency situation that requires immediate action to prevent a suspect from getting away, from destroying evidence or to prevent imminent danger or harm to others. If an exigent circumstance exists, then the police are legally able to enter a premises without a warrant and any evidence they find related to the exigency would be admissible in court against the defendant.
The officer’s in this case stated that the exigency that existed was the smell of burned marijuana. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the smell of burned marijuana was not an exigency that would allow the police to bypass the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. The officers would have been able to wait and go through the typical search warrant process where they would swear before a judge of the allegations against the defendant and then, in turn, would receive a signed warrant allowing access into the defendant’s home. Because the officers here skipped that step without proper justification, the evidence found (a large amount of marijuana) was suppressed from evidence, leaving the prosecutor without the ability to use that evidence against the defendant. Without the marijuana evidence, there was nothing left to move forward with, so the case was dismissed.
Any Further Questions?
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or being investigated for one, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. This experience extends not only to adult cases, but also to juvenile charges. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.