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The U.S. Constitution famously protects against unreasonable search and seizure, but the Washington State Constitution is far more narrow, requiring a warrant in all but

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No Warrant, No Search

marijuanaleaf.jpg

The U.S. Constitution famously protects against unreasonable search and seizure, but the Washington State Constitution is far more narrow, requiring a warrant in all but a handful of exceptions to conduct any search, reasonable or not. For that reason, the state Supreme court threw out Jason Eisfeldt's conviction for operating a marijuana growing operation at a house in Lacey.

In August 2003, Eisfeldt called in a repairman to fix a diesel spill on his living room floor. Michael Piper arrived and in the process of cleaning up, went into the attached garage to open the door and vent the fumes. The garage had a foam sealant around it, which Piper broke. Once inside, he found a garbage bag filled with pot. Piper called the cops, let them into the house, and showed them the bag. Then the officers called in for a warrant, which they got, allowing them to search the rest of the house. They found a growing operation and arrested Eisfeldt.

In today's Supreme Court decision, the nine justices agreed that the cops never should have been allowed in the house in the first place. In the majority opinion, authored by Justice Richard Sanders, the court points out that even if the initial search was reasonable, it violated the state constitution when the cops failed to seek a warrant before going into the garage in the first place.

Additionally, the search of an Olympia home based on a warrant obtained from the search of Eisfeldt's home was ruled unconstitutional due to the "poison tree" doctrine. Because the first search was illegal, any search warrants obtained from the first search are also unlawful.

While the court was unanimous in its ruling, Justices Barbara Madsen and Charles Johnson filed a separate opinion. They argue that while they agree with the outcome, Piper's initial search of the property wasn't unlawful and could have been used as evidence to lead to prosecution if the cops hadn't violated Eisfeldt's rights under the state Constitution in the first place.

 
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