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Procedural error with warrant leads to dismissal of drug charges

A Missouri professor is taking a deep breath of relief -- and potentially something else -- after his drug case was dismissed because of a procedural error. The man, a professor at Northwest Missouri State, had reportedly been targeted by law enforcement officials after he posted a threatening comment on a social media site. Officers were able to obtain a warrant to search the man's home, where they only found a pellet gun; however, they also found a marijuana-growing operation during that search. The man was taken into custody and hit with a series of drug charges after officers found the illegal plants at his home.

However, a judge ruled that the search warrant should have been quashed and the evidence suppressed in the drug offense case. The reason: Officers should never have sought a search warrant in the first place, as the professor was clearly joking in the Facebook post. Reports show that the man had said that he was optimistic about the beginning of the semester, but he hypothesized that he would want to climb to the top of a bell tower with a high-powered rifle by October.

A judge determined that the offhanded remark should not have been taken as a credible threat, and so officers did not have probable cause to search the man's home or charge him with drug offenses. The judge ruled that the initial warrant should have never been issued, and any evidence obtained during the search was inadmissible in court. Prosecutors intend to appeal.

Although it may seem as though defense attorneys routinely file too many motions, sometimes the requests to dismiss a case really can pay off. In this case, a judge ruled that the defendant's home was unfairly searched, leading to the dismissal of charges against him. Police officers and others involved in the legal system must ensure that they are following correct procedure when they make an arrest. If any procedural error occurs, then the results can sometimes be very beneficial for the criminal defendant.

Source: Riverfront Times, "Lucky Break for Missouri Professor Who Made Bad Joke That Led to Arrest for Growing Pot" Ray Downs, Jul. 18, 2014

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