CA Appeals Court Invalidates Warrantless Entry and Arrest for Pot Smoking
In a significant, far-reaching, unanimous California Court of Appeals decision Friday, the Court of Appeals in San Francisco held that police officers cannot enter a person's home without a warrant, even if they personally observe people smoking marijuana in the house and smell the marijuana being smoked. The decision was ordered to be published. The case is People v. Hua and you can read the decision here (pdf).
Exigent circumstances to make a warrantless entry to seize the marijuana before it is smoked does not trump the Fourth Amendment, where the officers have no knowledge that any crime is taking place other than possession of 28.5 grams or less of marijuana, which is a nonjailable offense. The opinion cites the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Welsh v. Wisconsin.
This is the best and the strongest California appellate decision upholding the legislative intent of George Moscone's landmark marijuana decriminalization bill enacted in 1975, with NORML as the chief sponsor of that legislation. It is the first such decision which protects the rights of marijuana smokers not to have their homes invaded by the police without a warrant, merely because the officers know -- not suspect, but know -- that the occupants of the home are smoking marijuana inside.
Congrats to defense lawyer Gordon Brownell who argued the case.
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