Minnesota is a laggard on the Legal Adult Use front. But for one client of Gallagher Criminal Defense facing large marijuana possession charges, prison is now off the menu.
Marijuana Attorney Thomas Gallagher filed a motion asking a judge to Suppress Evidence, due to an illegal search of a rental van.
And the result? After a Contested Omnibus Hearing, dismissal of all felony charges. The felony charges alleged possession of a “large amount of marijuana in vacuum sealed bags in boxes, weighing approximately 416 lbs.”
Winter highway leads to big marijuana possession charges
A rental van slips in a Minnesota snowstorm off the highway into some median wires. The driver leaves and gets a ride into town for help. A law enforcement officer arrives at the scene of the stuck rental van. He observes snack foods on the seat in the truck cab area; and “new” cardboard boxes in the cargo area. So based on this, and his “training and experience,” he claims to have “reasonable articulable suspicion” that the rental van and its boxes contain a large amount of marijuana.
But rather than tow the van and conduct an inventory search; and, rather than applying to a judge for a search warrant (would take less than an hour); the law enforcement officer tows the van to a government-owned shed for an eventual search. First the law enforcement officer runs a drug dog around it; and claims the dog indicates odor of an illegal drug. And this he now views as enough for probable cause to search. Then, he unlocks the doors and conducts a search.
This led to a prosecutor filing marijuana possession charges, with a 65 months presumptive commitment to Minnesota prison, under the Minnesota sentencing Guidelines.
A hunch is not enough
Thomas Gallagher argued that the van search was illegal; a violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless searches, with no applicable exception. The law enforcement officer said he suspected criminal activity within minutes of seeing the van in the ditch. And it was not towed to the normal tow yard, for an inventory search.
Instead, it was towed to a secure government-controlled location for purposes of investigation of criminal activity; and developing probable cause to search. But the original seizure of the rental van for that purpose was not objectively justified by probable cause to suspect criminal activity. Nor had the law enforcement officer applied for a search warrant from a judge, which he could easily have done.
And as a result, the subsequent search warrant an illegal violation of the Fourth Amendment of Constitution. So, the evidence being the fruit of the poisonous tree must be suppressed, Gallagher argued.
And? Dismissal of all marijuana possession charges. So one fewer prison inmate of Minnesota’s lingering Prohibition.
Does the Constitution matter?
In criminal cases, defense attorneys look for facts supporting a legal argument that the court should suppress evidence from illegal police conduct. In marijuana criminal cases, this is key. And sometimes illegal conduct by police results in suppression of all of the evidence. After suppression, the judge must dismiss the criminal charges for lack of evidence, including marijuana charges, regardless of weight.
Curious about legalization? So much more is here for you, from Thomas Gallagher:
- Marijuana in a Motor Vehicle
- A Rose is a Rose is a … Sale? Marijuana Cultivation Laws in Minnesota
- How to Avoid a Marijuana Arrest in a Car in Minnesota: Nine Tips
Have a question about a marijuana possession charges? Call Marijuana Attorney Thomas Gallagher at 612 333-1500.