Police in Florida and Georgia are on the lookout for homes in which marijuana is being grown. Marijuana grow houses, as they are often called, often use elaborate equipment to create an environment where marijuana can be successfully grown in the privacy of one’s home. The downside to that for people growing marijuana is that the police have learned certain tactics that help them locate these grow houses. They may look at electric bills, and when they find an electric bill that is much higher for one house than similar houses in the neighborhood, this raises suspicion that marijuana is being grown inside because the lights that are used to grow the marijuana use a lot of electricity. Police also look for houses with security cameras outside as people growing marijuana or storing drugs in their home often have security cameras outside to alert them when people are approaching.
Sometimes, the police come across a marijuana grow house by accident. In St. Marys, Georgia, which is about an hour north of Jacksonville, Florida, police were investigating a house fire on 4th Street that was caused by a generator used to power the lights that helped grow the marijuana. When the police went to investigate the fire, they found the marijuana plants inside a room in the home. Normally, the police are not allowed to enter a home without a search warrant signed by a judge. However, in certain emergency circumstances and/or circumstances where the police or fire department are conducting a valid investigation, i.e. a house fire investigation, the police can enter the home to follow up on the emergency or investigate the fire. If they come across the marijuana plants or other evidence of illegal activity, they are permitted to investigate the new evidence. In this case, not only did they find the marijuana grow house when they investigated the fire, but they also found documents in that house which informed them of the location of another grow house. These documents may have given the police probable cause to obtain a search warrant for the second house, depending on what was in those documents.
This case will likely result in some interesting search and seizure issues that can be challenged by the criminal defense lawyers for the people charged with growing the marijuana. However, people need to understand that some of the items that accompany these marijuana grow houses, such as generators, lighting equipment and large electric bills, can alert police to the existence and location of a marijuana grow house.