There is still no end to the marijuana trafficking arrests being made in South Florida. Narcotics units continue to scour the county looking for residences being used as marijuana grow houses. This time narcotics detectives nabbed a former Miami Beach police officer. As with most grow house busts, the detectives usually begin an investigation into a grow house through an anonymous tip or crime stoppers tip. Most of the tips come from neighbors or other competing marijuana growers. Police arrested Adam Tavss after executing a search warrant. Upon a search of the residence, detectives located 47 plants with an estimated street value of $50,000. The detectives shut down the hydroponic garden and seized the plants.
In a typical grow house bust, once the plants have been seized, they are taken to the Miami-Dade County crime lab for weighing and testing. When the lab weighs the marijuana, the technicians weigh the entire plant including the leaves, branches, trunk and roots. The weight is the most important issue because any weight greater than 25 pounds will constitute marijuana trafficking. There are three levels of marijuana trafficking. The first level carries a three year minimum mandatory and requires 25 pounds of marijuana or 300 plants. The second level carries a 7 year minimum mandatory and requires 2,000 to 10,000 pounds or 2,000 plants. The third level carries a 15 year minimum mandatory sentence and requires in excess of 10,000 pounds or 10,000 plants. The majority of grow house cases are of the 3 year minimum mandatory kind. In many cases, the marijuana weigh barely exceeds the 25 pound requirement. Qualified and experienced Miami criminal defense lawyers always recommend hiring an expert to re-weigh the plants. An expert routinely requires a $1,000 retainer to go to the lab and re-weigh the evidence. This strategy can also be used to defend cocaine trafficking cases.
In the case involving the Miami Beach cop, the narcotics detectives obtained a search warrant. In the majority of cases, the detectives try to gain entry using other means other than obtaining a warrant because getting a warrant requires a lot of time and effort. On many occasions, the detectives just walk up to the door of the residence which is acting as a grow house and attempt to get a consent to search from the property owner. Always remember, a home owner can refuse to allow law enforcement into their house. The home owner can even refuse to open the door. The best advice is not to open the door because opening the door may give the cops enough probable cause to obtain a warrant if they see or smell marijuana.
The only way to prevent law enforcement officers from approaching and knocking on a front door is by taking certain steps. First, the house must be surrounded by a fence. It is suggested that all of the gates be padlocked. All a police officer has to say is that a gate was left open and that may dissipate the expectation of privacy expected by the homeowner. Another way to establish that the homeowners intent to maintain privacy is to place the mailbox on the fence rather than on the front door. By instituting these measures, any entry without a warrant will be deemed unconstitutional by the court and the evidence will be suppressed. Anyone operating a grow house should follow this protocol to prevent uninvited intrusions by law enforcement.
Ex-Cop Faces Charges After Grow House Found, CBS4.com, May 26, 2010.