A marijuana case was recently dismissed after the police illegally came onto the defendant’s property and looked into his window and saw marijuana plants. This case near Jacksonville, Florida, started the same way many drug cases do when the police come on to a suspect’s property looking for drugs they believe are there. Someone got arrested and in order to improve his own situation, he told the police that the defendant was growing marijuana in his house. As a result, the police went to the suspect’s house, went up to the front door but instead of knocking, they went to a nearby window and looked inside. When they saw the marijuana plants through the window, they went inside and arrested the defendant for cultivating marijuana plants and possession of marijuana.
The criminal defense lawyer was able to get the evidence of the marijuana and marijuana plants thrown out because this was an illegal search. The Constitution gives the greatest protection against unreasonable searches and seizures in one’s home. In this case, the police did at least two things wrong. The police can walk up to a person’s home, as long as it is not gated or otherwise blocked off from public access, knock on the door and ask questions of the residents. The residents are free to ignore the police if that happens. However, if the police decide not to knock on the door or no one decides to answer the door if they do knock, the police cannot go snooping around the home looking for drugs or other evidence. That means the police cannot walk around the home and look into windows. If the police can clearly see drugs through an open door or a window from just outside the front door or the walkway to the house, that might be a different story. But in this case, the police took extra steps to look through a window and see the marijuana plants.
At that point, the search was bad, and this drug case was going nowhere. However, assuming the police legitimately saw the drugs, the police still could not enter the home at that point. Even where the police have evidence that a person has drugs in his/her home, the police still need a search warrant, consent to enter the home to search or some sort of emergency to enter the home. In this case, none of those factors were present so the entry of the home to locate and seize the marijuana plants was also illegal under the search and seizure laws. At that point, the police needed to get a search warrant, knock on the door and get consent to search from the owner or perhaps see someone inside attempting to destroy the marijuana plants. Without any of those events occurring, going into the home to seize the marijuana plants and marijuana was illegal.