St. Johns County man arrested when police find 157 pot plants

February 8, 2013

A St. Johns County man is facing charges of cultivation of marijuana after a tip led police to 157 marijuana plants the man is accused of growing. Michael Colvin was arrested last week and after someone alerted police to what they described as an elaborate growing operation, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Colvin is charged with a second-degree felony and faces up to 15 years in prison if he is convicted. Just five years ago, that wouldn't have been the case.

Florida lawmakers in 2008 passed the Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act, and one key change in the law is now affecting how much time Colvin is facing. The threshold for the number of plants a person must possess to be charged with cultivating marijuana was reduced from 300 all the way down to 25. The new law picks up plenty of people in the middle, as it did Colvin in this St. Johns County Marijuana Cultivation case. Colvin's case was turned over the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area to be investigated. Police often use electric utility records as evidence in St. Johns County Marijuana Cultivation cases because growing marijuana requires an extensive amount of light - far more than an ordinary household would use.

Police found the marijuana in two separate buildings, the newspaper reported, but it was unclear whether the grow operation was inside a home or in more commercial style buildings. Another change that was part of the 2008 state law allows the state to simply take pictures of the grow equipment and use the photographs as evidence if the case ultimately goes to trial. Prosecutors were previously required to keep the equipment. It doesn't sound like much, but the operations are often complicated and police said the space needed to keep all of the equipment on hand until a trial was a hindrance to investigations. The law also made it a first-degree felony to grow marijuana in a home occupied by children, though that does not appear to apply in Colvin's St. Johns County Marijuana case.

Police also say they recovered a stolen shotgun when they found the marijuana, but it does not appear that Colvin has been charged yet in connection with the gun. His bond was set at $5,000 - a relatively low amount for a felony drug charge - and Colvin is now out of jail awaiting a trial. One key to the case will be if police will be able to prove that Colvin was selling the marijuana once it was cultivated, assuming the plants have been harvested at least once. Sale charges can up the ante and increase the defendant's prison time exposure in the case.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in St. Johns County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our St. Johns County Marijuana Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.