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Warrantless Search

Many searches today are warrantless searches. Other than "the officer did not read me my rights" the search without a warrant is probably the biggest complaint amongst my criminal defense and drug clients. Not all warrantless searches are invalid and there are several exceptions to the warrant requirement.

One exception, called inevitable discovery was recently addressed by the Third District in Rodriguez, v. State. This ruling does apply to the Gainesville and Ocala area. In that case several bail bondsmen were attempting to locate one of their clients charged with marijuana cultivation, who had listed the address of the Defendant's home on his application for the bond.

When the bondsmen arrived, the Defendant answered, denied knowing the client, and told the bondsmen that he was alone. The bondsmen requested permission to search the home, and the Defendant consented to the search. The bondsmen noticed a smell of marijuana. Inside, they encountered a locked door which the Defendant opened while telling the bondsmen that he was growing marijuana in the room. The bondsmen saw the grow operation and called the police. The grow room contained six-foot marijuana plants, lights, and 36 pounds of marijuana.

When a uniformed police officer arrived, the Defendant invited the officer into the house, the officer saw the grow room and made the arrest. When the narcotics unit arrived, the Defendant signed a consent to search form. The Defendant filed a motion to suppress asking the court to disallow the evidence found pursuant to the warrantless search because the officer did not make any efforts to obtain a search warrant before law enforcement entered the home.

The trial court concluded that the inevitable discovery doctrine applied because probable cause had been established before law enforcement requested consent. The appeals court agreed that the independent evidence from the bondsmen regarding the locked grow room, the lights, and actual marijuana plants, coupled with the pre-search smell of marijuana from outside the front door described by both the bondsman and police, established probable cause for a search warrant before any law enforcement officer requested consent. Therefore consent was not needed and neither was an application for a warrant.

This Defendant could not control the fact that his address was used by another marihuana grower. However he could have refused to allow the bondsman to enter. The legal lesson is that if probable cause is present, as in this case, the court may uphold a warrantless search even if there is no consent to search. Whether an exception such as 'inevitable discovery' applies to your case depends exclusively on the facts. Every case is different. If you or a loved one is in needs to hire a lawyer, then please click or call today.

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