In a trafficking in marijuana case near Jacksonville, Florida, police officers were given a tip from a person who said the defendant was growing large quantities of marijuana in his home. A tip like that by itself is rarely sufficient to get a search warrant, but it is usually the starting point for further investigation by the police. In this case, the police conducted some surveillance of the house and then walked up to the house and knocked on the door. When the defendant opened the door, the police said they heard the sounds of a generator which was consistent with equipment used to grow marijuana. They also smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the house. The police then entered the home for what they said was a protective sweep to make sure no one else was in the house potentially destroying evidence. At the same time, they went to get a search warrant to search the house for marijuana and marijuana growing equipment.
When looking through the house, the police found marijuana and the equipment used to grow marijuana. They ultimately obtained the search warrant and seized the incriminating evidence. The defendant was charged with trafficking in marijuana and other charges. The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the marijuana and growing equipment based on the fact that the police entered the home and saw the drugs and equipment prior to getting the search warrant.
The court agreed that the police did not have a right to enter the home based on the tip, the sound of the generator and the odor of marijuana. The police officer said they entered the home because they thought someone might destroy the evidence. However, that was pure speculation, and there was no specific evidence that destruction of evidence might occur. The police could only legally enter the home with a search warrant at that point. However, the marijuana evidence was not suppressed because the police ultimately did get a search warrant and seized the marijuana thereafter. Since the police were ultimately within their rights to search the house pursuant to the search warrant, the marjuana evidence was admissible.