Judge erred in disallowing marijuana as evidence, high court rules @

September 02, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has ruled that a Carroll County judge erred in throwing out marijuana plants as evidence in a drug case.

According to an opinion filed Tuesday, the state's second-highest court said Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. erred in ruling that the plants, found by Carroll sheriff's deputies in an Eldersburg apartment July 24, 1992, were inadmissible as trial evidence against the man who lived in the apartment.

The deputies were in the apartment building looking for a man who had not returned to the Carroll County Detention Center from work release.

After they contacted the residents of the upstairs apartment, they noticed a downstairs apartment with a broken door.

Thinking that a break-in might have occurred, they entered the apartment.

They didn't find anybody inside, but found several large marijuana plants.

They went to a Carroll District judge, who issued a search warrant for the apartment the same day. The deputies returned with the warrant and seized the plants.

The seizure led to the arrest of Michael Carroll, who lived in the apartment. He was charged with five drug counts, including manufacturing marijuana, possession of marijuana and maintaining a common nuisance.

Mr. Carroll's defense attorney, Paul Feeley Jr., argued at a suppression hearing in November that the officers should not have entered the apartment before they obtained the warrant and that the broken door did not give them probable cause to suspect anything was amiss there.

Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III argued that the officers acted within the law in entering the apartment.

Judge Burns threw out the evidence in a ruling March 16.

But the Court of Special Appeals ruled that "the deputies' entry into Mr. Carroll's apartment was reasonable under the particular facts of this case. The warrantless entry and the discovery of marijuana plants during that entry did not taint the issuance of the search and seizure warrant."

Mr. Feeley said yesterday he has not read the decision, but will appeal it.

Mr. Walker said the appellate court's decision revives the case against Mr. Carroll.

"I'm pleased with the decision," the prosecutor said.

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