An Athens man is getting his day in front of the state supreme court today, where his attorney -- a public defender -- will argue that the technology authorities used to identify him as a marijuana grower was invasive and did not result in evidence strong enough to merit a search warrant.
The 28-year-old man was charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession of a controlled substance and manufacture of marijuana after authorities flew over his house and used a thermal imaging camera to detect a "hot spot" in his garage. Agents from the Northeast Regional Drug Task Force told a judge they believed that indicated the man was using high-intensity lights to grow marijuana, and the judge granted them a search warrant. The man was arrested May 29.
The man's claim is that a search warrant is supposed to be executed for a concrete, specific item; one that could be brought to trial and examined. A hot spot is not such a thing, he claims, and could be attributed to many things, so it is not necessarily indicative of a marijuana operation.
Legal experts who've examined the case say that much will hinge on the definition of "tangible." Under state law, a search warrant may only be executed for something tangible, but the term itself is not defined.
We will keep a close eye on this case. If anything interesting develops, we will update this blog with the case's progress.
Source: The Athens Banner-Herald, "Accused Athens pot farmer challenges legality of infrared search," Joe Johnson, June 10, 2012