Appeals Court Reverses Pot-Growing Conviction

Appeals Court Reverses Pot-Growing Conviction
Posted by FoM on February 28, 2001 at 08:39:45 PT
By Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Source: San Francisco Chronicle 
A few phone calls from the home of a drug suspect and an electric bill higher than others in the neighborhood make enough evidence for a warrant to search a home for marijuana growing. At least that's how a Sonoma County judge saw it. A state appellate court panel took a different view, however. "This was not a close case," three judges of the Court of Appeal said in a ruling made public yesterday that overturned Richard Hight's cultivation conviction and nine-month jail sentence. 
It wasn't an unusual case either, said Hight's lawyer, Richard Ingram. In Sonoma County, he said, "this is a very common way they try to get search warrants." The case against Hight began when federal agents examined the telephone records of a woman who had been arrested for marijuana cultivation and said they found five calls to Hight's home. In fact, the records showed only one call, and didn't say who made it or for what purpose, the court said. Agents then looked at Hight's energy bills and found, based partly on erroneous calculations, that he used about twice as much electricity as several neighbors, allegedly a sign of indoor marijuana cultivation, the court said. After a thermal scan of the outside of the home proved inconclusive, the sheriff's office got a warrant from a judge in June 1998, searched the home and found 92 marijuana plants growing in a barn, the court said. Hight pleaded no contest after Superior Court Judge Robert Boyd upheld the search. He has remained free during his appeal. The appellate court said the search warrant should not have been issued because officers had no information showing a probability that evidence of a crime would be found in the home. Phone calls from the home of a drug suspect are not evidence of wrongdoing, said the opinion by Justice Carol Corrigan. She said having the highest electric bill in the neighborhood proves little when deputies offer no information about the size of the neighbors' homes, how often they are occupied and how they are heated.Note: Evidence inadequate for search warrant. E-mail Bob Egelko at: begelko sfchronicle.comSource: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)Author: Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff WriterPublished: Wednesday, February 28, 2001Copyright: 2001 San Francisco ChronicleAddress: 901 Mission St., San Francisco CA 94103Contact: letters sfchronicle.comWebsite: Articles - Thermal Imaging
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Comment #5 posted by Ed Carpenter on March 01, 2001 at 03:35:17 PT:
Bogus warrants
Considering the tactic of recalling errant District Attorneys, is there a way to dump these judges who issue search warrants based on ridiculous assertions?Is anyone ever taken to task? 
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Comment #4 posted by Dr. Ganj on February 28, 2001 at 22:07:34 PT
Sonoma County Not Cool At All
It figures this happened in Sonoma county, as that's where I got busted for cultivation. Envious neighbors dropped the dime on me, and off to jail I went. As to this case though, having a high electric bill is not going to justify getting a warrant, and in the end he'll beat this charge.I know growers with electric bills that are several thousand dollars a month, and for all anyone knows they are just another business using a lot of power. What the cops in Sonoma county don't want are more people willing to take their cases to trial, and make them spend MONEY! If we all took our cases to trial we wouldn't have any drug war. So, you don't like the laws? Then try and change them. If you are busted, then go to trial! If you lose, and receive more time in jail, consider it a sacrifice for the next fellow that gets arrested. With this tactic, we'll all win in the long run.Dr. Ganj
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Comment #3 posted by NiftySplifty on February 28, 2001 at 14:21:08 PT
Electric bills...
To get a warrant based on higher-than-usual electric bills is ridiculous. My electric bill last month was $17 (not bad for very Southern CA) whereas my mother's a mile away was nearly $100. Both residences are about the same size. I guess I'd better warn Mom about the imminent police raid! Police will do pretty much anything to get you, but that's not news to anyone here.Nifty...
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Comment #2 posted by sm247 on February 28, 2001 at 13:28:59 PT
Electrical usage
Electrical usage can vary so much it should not even be a considering factor. I am tired of Americans being treated this way over pot  ...but it is okay if they have a martini for lunch before heading back to the office. 
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Comment #1 posted by TroutMask on February 28, 2001 at 09:40:50 PT
Too Bad
It's too bad that this decision comes as somewhat of a surprise to me. It's too bad that our rights are on such shaky ground that such a decision is ever in question.-TM
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