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Ingham County Judge: Police Unlawfully Searched Medical Marijuana Caregiver's Basement

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LANSING — A judge ruled Thursday that police unlawfully searched a medical marijuana caregiver’s basement after a home invasion, throwing out evidence prosecutors say showed the man had too many marijuana plants.


“The problem is we have a constitutional Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said at a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court. “And, I’m concerned about what happened here.”


The case dates to February 2013. Jason Terrill, 31, his fiancée and four children were in their Holt home when a man — wearing a ski mask and carrying a handgun — broke in.


Terrill ended up in a struggle with the intruder, who shot himself in the torso. Terrill’s fiancée shot the man in the hand. Terrill called 911, and when Ingham County sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found the man in the doorway, handcuffed and bleeding severely.


Deputies searched the house and found a door to the basement padlocked. Sgt. Jeff Weiss testified that he asked Terrill to open it, but Terrill refused. Weiss went to his patrol vehicle, retrieved a bolt-cutter and cut the padlock. He said he was looking for other possible victims or suspects. Authorities had not yet obtained a search warrant.


In the basement were dozens of marijuana plants. Terrill was a licensed medical marijuana caregiver for three patients and also a patient, according to his attorney, Jamie White.


Still, he was charged with having more plants than the law allows as well as illegally possessing three guns that were kept in the basement. The guns, White said, were legally registered to Terrill’s fiancée.


With Aquilina’s ruling, White said, “there is no evidence of a crime,” and he expects the case to be dismissed. Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said no decision has been made about whether to appeal Aquilina’s ruling.


While there are a few exceptions — including ensuring the safety of officers — that allow police to search someone’s home without a warrant, White said none of those applied. Assistant Prosecutor Elizabeth Allen argued in court that police needed to search the basement to ensure there were no other victims.


“It would be negligent on the part of (police) to not clear the room,” Allen said.


In her ruling, Aquilina noted that there were no bloody fingerprints on or near the basement door, no cries for help and no indication anyone was in the basement. Terrill was taken to the door and asked to open it himself, she said, which would indicate officers were not concerned about danger. And once Weiss cut the lock and searched the basement, there was no testimony he conducted a thorough search.


“There really wasn’t a hunt for (anyone),” she said. “There was a satisfaction of, ‘I found marijuana.’ That’s where I draw the line.”




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The problem is we have a constitutional Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said


I've never considered our Fourth Amendment right as a problem for anyone but zealous militant style cops with a boner for medical marijuana patients.

It was my experience a few years ago to take a law class taught by a prosecutor from Midland. He was tickled that the laws regarding search and seizure have become what he considers good. The US Supreme Court has made several intrusions on the amendment in favor of law enforcement and opposed to citizen rights. A good place to start is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_v._Ohio. Subsequent rulings have shaved more protections.

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