A tip from a neighbor led police to a Jacksonville home where they found 36 marijuana plants and other evidence of a grow operation inside the residence. When police arrived, they smelled the odor of burning marijuana, knocked on the door and Derrick Anton Warren let the officers inside, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Once inside, police found 36 pot plants inside a bedroom, two garbage bags of freshly picked marijuana and dried processed marijuana throughout the home, as well as empty cultivation pots, the newspaper reported. Warren was arrested for Jacksonville Cultivation of Marijuana, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. While he certainly would have always faced some prison time for having large quantities of pot and plants in his home – a fairly new law passed by the Florida legislature in 2008 put an additional hurting on smaller-scale pot growers like Warren.
The law, part of a legislative crackdown on marijuana in Florida, now makes it a second-degree felony to grow 25 or more plants – a fraction of the previous threshold of 300 plants. The law, called the Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act, also made it a first-degree felony (punishable by up to 30 years in prison) to grow 25 or more plants in a home with children present, though there were no indications from the newspaper report that children were living in Warren’s home. The 2008 law also makes owning a house for the purpose of cultivating, packaging and distributing marijuana a third-degree felony in Duval County, punishable by up to five years in prison. The law also made it easier for law enforcement to collect evidence – a subtle change that is important once cases get down the road for a potential trial. Police used to have to find places to store the large grow equipment, often a comprehensive labyrinth of lights and wires, to preserve it as evidence. The change in the law allowed police to simply take pictures of the equipment, making it easier to move forward from a prosecution perspective.
Time will tell how much evidence police have against Warren, outside of what they found inside his home. Police in Duval County, Clay County and St. Johns County commonly use electric utility records to help cases – sometimes even to initiate an investigation – because growing pot takes a significant amount of light and people who grow typically use several times more electricity that the average consumer. And according to what is out now, Warren appears to have voluntarily let the police inside his home. Who knows exactly how that conversation occurred, but you do not have to let police into your home unless they have a warrant to search it. And if they were only acting on a tip from a neighbor, they likely do not have had enough evidence for a judge to sign a warrant. The ideal scenario in such an instance would be for the homeowner to not let police in and immediately call a Jacksonville Marijuana Lawyer to discuss the situation.
If you or a loved one needs a drug crimes attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.