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Possession of Marijuana Case Gets Thrown Out Due to Illegal Search

In this case the police officer was responding to a call regarding a missing juvenile. He went to a facility where juveniles stayed and spent time playing games and meeting with others. When he arrived, he saw the juvenile defendant in this case sleeping in the common area. There were some clothes and a bag near the defednat. Antoehr girl was sleeping near the defendant. A pipe was partially visible in the bag and close to the defendant and the girl. The police officer rertrieved the pipe from the bag which had marijuana resideu in it. The defendant admitted the pipe was his and arrested the juvenile.

Normally, when the police want to search someone or something, the police officer needs a search warrant. However, one exception to the seaarch warrant requirement occurs when the police officer sees something in plain view which is obviously evidence of a crime. This does not mean the police officer can walk into someone’s house or open someone’s bag and then seize a bag of marijuana that is in plan view at that point. One requirement of the plain view doctrine is that the police officer has a right to be where he/she is when the police officer sees the illegal item in plain view.

In this case, the judge threw out the evidence of the pipe and the marijuana inside because there was insufficient evidence to believe the partially concealed pipe was obviously illegal drug paraphernalia at the time the officer saw it. The officer could not see the entire pipe so it could have been something else. Even it was clearly a pipe, the officer did not see the marijuana resideu inside. It could have contained regular tobacco which is not illegal. Beause it was not clear that the pipe was evidence of illegal activity when the officer first saw it, the police officer did not have a right to take it from the juvenile’s bag. As a result, that evidence was thrown out and the possession of marijuana charge was dropped.