A New Jersey appellate court has ruled that a Madison, NJ police officer did not need a warrant to find marijuana plants in a Madison home.
According to authorities, the marijuana plants were first discovered by firefighters called to the scene of a smoke-filled house. A neighbor dialed 911 after hearing a smoke alarm going off. When firefighters arrived at the house, they conducted a search to discovery the source of the smoke. During the search, one of the firefighters allegedly found marijuana plants in a closet.
A police officer later reported finding several marijuana plants under a grow light in a closet, multiple smoked joints, 87 small plastic bags, and a plastic container with marijuana residue.
After being arrested, the suspect was initially indicted on drug charges, including third degree possession of marijuana, fourth degree possession of marijuana, and possession with intent to distribute in a school zone.
The resident of the home attempted to suppress the evidence in court by claiming that the police officer had been tipped off by firefighters about the presence of the marijuana. However, the trial court determined that the firefighter did not specifically tell the police officer what he found. The trial judge said that the evidence of marijuana was in plain view. Although the judge acknowledged the importance of protections against unreasonable searches, he said that law enforcement was in the area of the drugs, the drugs were inadvertently discovered, and law enforcement had probable cause to link the drugs with criminal activity.
When the trial court rejected the defendant’s claims, he pleaded guilty to fourth degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). However, he also appealed the decision by arguing that the firefighter specifically mentioned the presence of “marijuana plants” in the home.
Ultimately, the appellate court sided with prosecutors and rejected the defendant’s appeal because the firefighters discovered the marijuana in plain view.
For more information about this case, read the NJ.com article entitled “Madison Cops Didn’t Need Warrant to Find Pot Plants in Smoke-Filled Home, Court Rules.“
If you are facing drug possession or drug distribution charges in New Jersey, contact Morristown NJ criminal defense attorney Travis J. Tormey for a free consultation about your case.