April 16, 2014

What to do During a Police “Knock and Talk”

Esteemed criminal defense and civil rights lawyer Bill Buckman offers up another reasons to be wary of speaking to the police, particularly if suspected of growing marijuana:

Here in NJ, police euphemistically call one of their marijuana related operations a “knock and talk”, though it can often be anything but. When police suspect that marijuana may be grown in a household, they organize multiple agencies to “respond” on a predetermined date and time to the location – a show of force. (Indeed during cross examination police have conceded that a “ knock and talk” is organized just as a forcible search warrant raid would be.)

It usually goes down like this: Police have only a mere suspicion that folks are growing marijuana in their homes. Maybe they have been tipped off by informants at a growing supply store (which, of course, sell an entire range of legal articles) or maybe the police have done an illegal drive-by thermal imaging of a house to see if heat from some kind of grow situation exists.

(As an aside, its illegal for police to do a thermal imaging scan of a home without a warrant. But if they do perform one and then intimidate the owners to “consent to a search,” the illegality often goes by the wayside, as the law will see the consent as “ curing” the illegality.)

In any event, for the “ knock and talk,” police show up in force. Some go to each entry or exit of the residence. (Query if its just a knock and talk, by virtue of what right would cops have to stop anyone from leaving the house and refusing to talk. None, really). Yet too often faced with intentional, intimidating show of force, people often “consent” to let police in their homes. At that point, cops usually talk the occupants into signing a “consent to search form” by misleading them. Once signed, the form will allow police to search all areas of the residence and every nook and cranny, totally tossing the contents about if the police wish.

The best advice to deal with a “knock and talk” is to simply not open the door and certainly not to allow police the consent to search the home. When speaking with police, one should be extremely hesitant to sign anything, like a consent from, without a lawyer present. Since police have no search warrant when conducting a knock and talk, it is not necessary to open the door. One could speak through the door if he or she wishes. Stories are legion about how, once inside the house, police allege that they smell marijuana and can then get an actual warrant.

The “knock and talk” is a bit of NJ legal schizophrenia. Because of proven abuses with racial profiling, police need a reasonable basis to even ask to search a car. But, our Supreme Court has reasoned, the home was not the site of such abuses – despite the inherently intimidating and abusive nature of the “knock and talk.”

Lastly, it bears repeating that purchasers of growing equipment, even online, have been regularly subjected to “knock and talks.” In fact, to help shed light on the issue, it would be helpful to start gathering details of “knock and talks” that netted nothing other than legal indoor growing materials.

 

Bill Buckman is hailed as one of the most skillful, tenacious and dedicated criminal-defense attorneys in New Jersey. He is also a seasoned civil rights lawyer with a comprehensive list of successful cases that have received nationwide attention. Mr. Buckman has kept a constant focus on the relationship between the individual and large organizations, particularly government. To find out more about Mr. Buckman or his services in and around Moorestown, New Jersey, please visit his website.

Philadelphia: Marijuana arrests remain high

I am your neighbor and I smoke pot

"I am your neighbor and I smoke pot" sign at PhillyNORML march 2010

Each year PhillyNORML, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, looks at the marijuana arrest data for the city. The information comes directly from the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System.

Here are the numbers for 2009, the most recent data available:

There were 6, 402 marijuana related arrests by Philadelphia City Police in 2009. These were stand-alone violations not in conjunction with other crime.

4, 656 were adults arrested for simple possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana.

Of the adults arrested for simple marijuana possession more than 75% were 18-29 years old (3,129) and 91% were men (4,251).

The trend of white women being the group who have the least amount of annual possession arrests was true again with just 104 all year; less than 10 per month.

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