9th Circuit Weighs In on Constitutionality of Warrantless Drug-Related Searches

Illinois drug law, drug searches, Illinois criminal defense attorney, Recently, a judge in the federal district court covering northern California and centered in San Francisco delivered a ruling that will reverberate around the nation’s legal community for some time on the topic of warrantless drug-related searches.

While the decision came as part of a larger case involving medical marijuana patients in California, the implications, as well as the timing, send a message far beyond the circuit itself and, in fact, could be a well-timed legal dart into the overall federal discussion about not just drugs, but fundamental constitutional issues underlying current public policy nationally.

Mere Declaration of a Public Threat Does Not Make It So

The specifics of the decision, which is that warrantless police raids on private homes (for reasons a county had declared “a threat”) violate the Fourth Amendment, should come as no surprise to many.  The idea that United States law enforcement and prosecution has become overly draconian in regards to the domestic drug war is widespread.

The specifics of the greater case, in fact, belie the reality that most people, in every walk of life, do not relish the idea of heavily armed local law enforcement breaking down gates to enter private property in the pursuit of what, in this case, were less than nine mature cannabis plants and 14 seedlings commonly used as starter stock – not actual yield bearing plants.

What Does This Mean For Illinois Residents?

Drug laws are changing in Illinois, as well as around the country, but they are not the only ones.  The interplay of civil rights, labor rights, and constitutional rights is what makes this case of national interest and relevant far beyond pot possession or cultivation. The 9th Circuit has long been one of the most “activist” federal circuits. It shares the distinction, along with the 6th, of being the two federal circuits most out of step with the legal opinions of the current Supreme Court. Cases out of this circuit in particular, and particular on constitutional matters, not only head for the highest court in the land on a regular basis (and thus potentially affect every state), but also have a history of being rebuffed.

This time it is more than likely, particularly with the legal faults to date from not only retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens but departing Attorney General Eric Holder, that the police expansion of power over the last 15 years in national life is beginning to be severely checked on a significant federal level.

And while this case may not reach the Supreme Court, it sends a powerful message to judges and law enforcement in every state with a new medical marijuana program that warrants are required, for any reason, before breaking into private residences.

If you are currently facing drug charges, or are the victim of what you believe was a warrantless search of your home, you may have more options that you know, based on changing law not only in Illinois but nationally. That said, you will also need the help and advice of an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney today for help with your case.

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