Shorstein & Lasnetski was called by a client who had been arrested a few counties south of Jacksonville, Florida for possession of marijuana. The client was at his home on his back porch. A police officer was responding to a noise complaint made by the client’s neighbor about the client. The police officer knocked on the front door, and no one answered. The police officer said that he heard voices around back so he walked around the house into the backyard. When he was in the backyard, he saw our client and some marijuana on a table near our client. Our client was arrested for possession of that marijuana.
This was clearly a bad search. After we filed our Motion to Suppress the marijuana seized as a result of the illegal search, the prosecutor agreed with our position and dropped the case. The reason this was an obviously illegal search is because a person has a strong privacy interest in his/her home and that includes the backyard. A police officer may not walk into a person’s home or walk around a person’s home into the backyard without a search warrant or a clear exception to the search warrant requirement such as consent or exigent circumstances. In this case, the police officer did not have a search warrant or consent to search, and an investigation into a noise complaint would not establish exigent circumstances.
Because the police officer did not have any right to walk behind his house into his backyard and violate our client’s privacy rights, any marijuana he found as a result of the illegal search was thrown out and the possession of marijuana charge could not stand.