A businessman who currently has a multi-million dollar contract with the state had a lucky day in court last week when a Pittsylvania judge ruled the search that led to him being busted for marijuana was illegal, freeing him from the charges that could have ultimately landed him in jail for years.
According to the Altavista Journal, this is the defendant’s second trial on the charges that he was growing 475 plants. His first trial ended in a guilty verdict but was overturned because the judge in the case didn’t dismiss a potential juror who had connections to the county’s commonwealth’s attorney’s office.
At this retrial, things might end in his favor again.
Pittsylvania County Circuit Court Judge Stacey W. Moreau ruled that the search on the defendant’s property was executed largely without a warrant. State Police spotted marijuana plants from a helicopter and directed teams on the ground to cut them down. Officers went onto the defendant’s property without a warrant and began cutting down seven or eight patches of marijuana.
When the defendant refused to “consent” to a search and a while a warrant was being sought, officers can be seen in photographs seizing the evidence that was eventually submitted in court.
“They were looking for evidence and they just stepped on the Fourth Amendment to do that,” said one of the defense lawyers on the case. “All of this evidence is tainted.”
The prosecution argued that the officers were guarding evidence from destruction while they awaited the warrant. But the photographs show them doing far more than “guarding”.
Because Judge Moreau sided with the defense in a motion to suppress the evidence, the prosecution won’t be able to use any of the evidence gathered on that day in their case against the man—a man, who incidentally, is getting paid $3 to $4 million over the next three years for his tree-trimming services to the state.
When you are accused of a serious crime, no matter who you are or what you do for a living, you need someone on your side advocating for your rights.
Illegal searches are often cited as justification for charges being dropped. If your constitutional rights were violated by police, the evidence they gathered may be barred from trial.