Tampa police were making an arrest of a person in the front yard of our client's home when they asked the person under arrest if there were any other people at the residence. The person under arrest at the time told the officer that there were people in a building in the rear of the property. The officer then went into the backyard of the residence and claimed to smell the odor of burning marijuana. The officer then ordered those in the building to exit; he went inside and retrieved several marijuana cigarettes. The officer then arrested our client for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
In reviewing the police report and other evidence in the officer's report, we noticed several serious problems with the officer's conduct. First, the officer had no right to enter the backyard of our client's home. The officer had no warrant or permission to enter our client's property. Police are limited by the fourth amendment from conducting searches and seizures without a warrant; this is particularly true of dwellings. In this case the officer had no warrant no other valid reason that would allow entry to the property without a warrant.
Under the U.S. Constitution, anything the officer found after this unlawful entry was inadmissible as evidence against our client or any other person on the property. Even if the officer had a valid reason to enter their property, he still lacked a valid reason to enter the building. The officer did not see any illegal substance until he entered the building at the rear of the property. In order for an Officer to claim he seized property located in plain view he must show he was allowed to be in the location from where he saw the illegal substance. The odor of marijuana alone is not a valid reason to enter a home.
In this case our office filed a motion to suppress all evidence in the case due to the officer's multiple violations of the fourth amendment. In reviewing our motion the Office of the State Attorney agreed that the officer's conduct was improper. The Court then granted our motion to suppress all evidence and all charges against our client were dismissed.
If you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney with the experience to evaluate the State's case and the evidence against you. Many times the police conduct unlawful searches and seizures of property. If the search of your person or property is unlawful that will be grounds to suppress the evidence against you. As former prosecutors, the attorneys at Thomas & Paulk P.A. have the knowledge and experience to evaluate your case and always offer a free consultation.