Drug War

Smells Like Multiple Fourth Amendment Violations


Remember those Pinellas County, Florida, sheriff's deputies with the suspiciously keen olfactory senses? They identified possible marijuana growers by using a surveillance camera to track the customers of Simply Hydroponics (right), a store in Largo. But since hydroponic equipment has various legal uses, the fact that people patronized the store did not give police probable cause to search their homes. Investigators needed something more, which they often supplied by claiming to have smelled marijuana while standing on public property outside of people's homes (including the home of at least one person who was not actually growing marijuana). Now the Tampa Bay Times, which first called attention to the deputies' amazing noses, reports that the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office "is dismissing charges against an accused St. Petersburg marijuana grower and will reconsider dozens of similar cases" due to "allegations that narcotics deputies trespassed and lied to gather evidence."

Specifically, "Sworn search warrant applications by deputies Paul Giovannoni and Michael Sciarrino—the lead detectives in the grow house cases—said they could smell indoor pot farms from public sidewalks and neighbors' yards. But defense attorneys think that the two deputies and at least one supervisor trespassed to get their information, which is illegal." The St. Petersburg case involved David Cole, a 60-year-old who said he was growing marijuana in a shed to treat the symptoms of his multiple sclerosis. The Times says Cole noticed "concrete blocks stacked in stair-step fashion on his neighbor's property next to his fence," and he "thinks officers might have put them there to vault his fence."

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who is conducting an internal investigation, did not want to get into the details of who smelled what or trespassed where, saying only that "information came to light Friday that calls into question the veracity of those involved in making that case to the point where I believe the right thing to do is to have that case dismissed." In addition to Cole's case, dozens of others could be affected. "We need to look at them all," Gualtieri said, "because the information we have goes to general veracity. Once there is that allegation, then it touches anything that certain people may have touched….Many [cases] may be involved before it is all said and done. Many may go.''

A defense attorney tells the Times about a client who "was caught with 93 plants and sentenced to three years in prison after a detective secured a search warrant by stating that he could smell marijuana from a sidewalk." The lawyer "had a National Weather Service meteorologist ready to testify that the wind was blowing away from the detective that night, but nobody in the court system would listen."

NEXT: Teachers Union and NAACP Sue NY Charter School: An Update on Bob Bowdon's Choice Media TV

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I guess good on the sheriff for admitting that this probably isn't an isolated incident. Surely officers who lie in sworn statements will be fired and charged with perjury pour encourager les outres, right?

    1. Sovereign Immunity: Government officials' "Get Out of Jail Free" card.)

      1. There is general immunity for government officials acting within the scope of their duties. It does not apply to criminal acts (trespass) or perjury, however. Which isn't to say that such charges will be brought, but the authorities will be hard pressed to find a plausible reason not to.

        I claim no great expertise here, but as far as I know growing marijuana plants don't have much smell. It's only when you burn them that the smell occurs. If they really did sign affidavits that they smelled the plants I would think that is prima facie evidence of perjury. I hope they're fired.

    2. "Once there is that allegation, then it touches anything that certain people may have touched...."

      The sheriff is covering his ass. Once these dicks are exposed in court for the liars they are, every case they ever worked on is going to be fair game, and not just MJ cases.

      1. You are naive to believe that cops will loose their credibility because they got caught lying. Didn't a jurry convict regardless of exposed lies. The truth is that even defense and civil rights attorneys have a soft spot in their hearts for lying fucking pigs. Defense attorneys don't keep or share records on cop perjury. Civil rights attorneys always structure punitive damages into a settlement to protect the cops wallet.

  2. It's a good thing these officers were spending their time lying about smelling marijuana. We wouldn't have wanted them out looking for thieves, murderers, or rapists. No, we need them setting more speed traps on the highway to raise revenue.

  3. Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office "is dismissing charges against an accused St. Petersburg marijuana grower and will reconsider dozens of similar cases" due to "allegations that narcotics deputies trespassed and lied to gather evidence."

    That is called perjury. Just once I would love to see one of these fuckers prosecuted for it.

    1. THEY LIE!

    2. Yup. Repeated false swearings, but, wait for it . . . .


    3. If I were a judge who issued warrants to these fuckers, I would be pissed. Can a judge demand a perjury prosecution?

    4. Cops almost never get prosecuted for perjury, because doing so destroys the DA's previous cases.

  4. My tomato plants are offended.

    Fucking cops are HYDROPONICISTS! Straight up.

    1. My aunt and uncle wanted to get some hydroponics equipment for vegetables, but they were scared to go because they thought crap like this could happen.

      1. My wife expressed interest in doing it, too (for tomatoes and maybe strawberries), and I told her I didn't want her or the rest of us to die in a blast of misplaced lead.

  5. And of course if one of these guys had shot one of the trespassing cops, they would be on death row right now.

    1. If the cop wasn't in uniform and hadn't identified himself as an officer, then the person may have gotten away with it.
      Recently someone linked to a shootout at a gas station where someone shot and killed a deputy who was out of uniform, had not shown his badge, and pulled out a gun. Dude got off on self defense.

      1. When I was in college, a couple of students got into a fight outside a bar. And some cop shows up without a uniform or badge and tried to break it up. And of course got his ass kicked. They charged the kid with assaulting an officer. Tried to say that the cop saying he was a cop was enough. The case pled down. But it was total bullshit.

      2. Texas has this interesting section of law:

        c) The use of force to resist an arrest or search is justified:
        (1) if, before the actor offers any resistance, the peace officer (or person acting at his direction) uses or attempts to use greater force than necessary to make the arrest or search; and
        (2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the peace officer's (or other person's) use or attempted use of greater force than necessary.

        It's section 9.31 here for the interested.

        This always seemed to me to say you can resist no-knock raids in Texas under the grounds of self-defense, since you have offered no resistance whatsoever before they kick in your door.

        1. Except that if you resist such a raid you will be killed, and then the law wouldn't do you much good.

          1. It'll help the wife out in the inevitable civil suit, though.

        2. That's pretty amazing. That should be in the constitution.

          1. I just don't know if that section has been used successfully. There's some weasel room in there under 'greater force than necessary'. I'm sure they'll argue breaking a baton over your skull was necessary.

            1. Yeah, I suppose they would claim that the same thing that justifies a no-knock raid at all would also make the level of force necessary.
              I would be very interested to find out if that defense has ever been tested, though.

        3. For a no-knock, or even a "quick-knock" where you don't have time to engage with the cops at all, I would think "greater force than necessary" would be a laydown win.

          It wouldn't, of course. But in a sane world, it would be.

        4. Correct, its why the Branch Davidians were declared innocent under federal law.

  6. OOOOOHHHHH, Dunphy?!? Where ya at to tell us all how cops are treated the same as everyone else and that they are "good" guys? OOPS, I forgot the sheriff says they violated "policy" so they will receive administrative punishment. Of course they will get a pass on the perjury, just like us "regular" folks would if we lied to the popo. In a sworn affidavit no less. Cause the popo faces the same penalties as the rest of us.

    1. Oh come on. All dunphy ever claims is that most cops are good guys. He has said flat out on many occasions that a cop had done wrong and should be charged just as anyone else would be. I'm not sure I believe it, but this story in no way contradicts that.

      I'm far from being a lover of the police, but why do we want to harangue and try to drive off one of the ones who really has the right attitude about most things?

      1. dunphy gets perhaps more hate than he deserves, but he does regularly say that police don't get special treatment.

        1. i'd really love it if people would not misstate my position when trolling.

          it's not that difficult

          what i have said is that MOST of the claims of double standard are specious.

          like they will compare a cop caught with a gram of coke who gets probation with some skell with 10 prior felonies who gets 6 months in jail

          hint: to make one on one comparisons, you take (among other things) PRIORS into account. in my jurisdiction, somebody caught with coke with no priors gets a DEFERRED SENTENCE in MISDEMEANOR SENTENCING (even though the RCW says it's a felony)

          or they will compare a cop using excessive force in an ARREST situation charged with X with somebody charged with X in a non-arrest situation.

          1. one must compare cops AND non-cops in arrest situations (yes, noncops can and do make arrests too)

            in brief, ime, when cops commit off duty offenses, they are treated MORE harshly than noncops. they will be tried in many cases where noncops would be nolle pros'd

            they will often get stiffer sentences. i gave an example of a WA cop with only misdemeanor priors who got over 20+ yrs for an assault case and i can't find ANY case in WA state where a noncop got 20+ yrs based on assault charges UNLESS he had multiple felony priors

            when cops get a hung jury, ime they are more likely to be retried (like paul schene) in a misdemeanor trial. imo, schene was guilty as fuck btw

            the primary problem with the double standard claim is they compare completely disanalogous situations. a perfect example is the BART shooting, that even RADLEY BALKO agreed was properly found to be manslaughter

            1. in SOME cases, cops are less likely to get charged given the same fact pattern. that is partly due to the fact that prosecutors charge based on likelihood of conviction and it is a fact that juries give cops a lot of benefit of the doubt, ESPECIALLY since cops usually testify in their defense (whereas the average defendant does not) such as the recent assault acquittal i cited yesterday of the seattle cop.

              but yes, cops do NOT get special treatment. you can find SOME examples of them getting more lenient treatment JUST like you can find some of them getting more harsh. but on the whole - it's pretty equal.


    2. You haven't noticed that Dunphy avoids 100% of threads where cops are given preferential treatment so that he can still claim that cops are never given preferential treatment?

      1. Plausible deniability.

        1. rubbish. i have a job and a life. yesterday, ironically, i responded to a one case where some noncops made a BLATANTLY unlawful detention of a "suspect" in some burglaries btw , which was quite ironic considering our thread just earlier, THEN a fatal collision where a guy not wearing his seatbelt was thrown from the car and killed

          how ironic

          but i do not purposefully avoid such threads. i do not commetn on every thread, though

          but i have yet to see a thread presented here where a cop got preferential treatment

          like i said, usually the claims are ridiculous

          like that rape case where he allegedly got special treatment, which IF YOU LOOK AT THE CASE FACTS, and you are AT ALL FAMILIAR WITH RAPE PROSECUTIONS (i've investigated and testified in SCORES of them) is not at all unusual

      2. also, that's a complete strawman

        i never claimed cops are NEVER given preferential treatment

        one can find examples of them given preferential treatment AND find examples of them given harsher treatment

        my point is that ON THE WHOLE, they are not given preferential treatment

        MOST such claims are generally supported with cases that are NOT preferential but are made by people who ignore salient facts such as

        1) did the cops have any priors (iow compare FIRST TIME OFFENDERS to the cop if the cop had no priors)
        2) people have a very skewed perspective and don't understand how often noncops get their charges nolle pros'd/dropped etc. because you almost never read about such cases.

        1. you have to be familiar WITH the court system, and see those cases first hand. everybody here relies on the media for their crime/court reports. they don't have independentk knowledge thus they fall prey to selection biases etc

          WA state routinely charges cops with all sorts of crimes and i can point out tons of cases. i can point out several where it was a blatant railroad BECAUSE they were a cop, and in many cases those cops get found not guilty AND get their job back

          one example of a harsh treatment case was the alvarez keller case which is unique in that i have NEVER seen a noncop get charged in a similar situation without a victim statement. but they charged them because thye are COPS and arrested and booked them

          the charges where later hung (some) and acquitted others.

          1. i have not seen in my entire career an example of a similar case where a non cop was arrested and charged without the victim providing a signed or sworn statement

            1. another example of harsher treatment is dual sovereignty such as rodney king case

              they were tried twice for the same ACTS but it wasn't technically double jeopardy because they were independant sovereigns (state vs. federal)

              but it's still being tried twice for the same offense after the first was found not guilty

              that ALMOST never happens with noncops. it much more commonly happens with cops

  7. If I were some idle millionaire, I would do like a travels with Charlie. I would take my dog and drive around the country taking pictures of things, buying cold medicine and hydroponic equipment just to drive the cops nuts.

  8. What about legislators that proposed and voted for drug laws in their respective legislatures? In a more moral future, I wish the proposal and support in a public capacity of any sort of prohibitions would become a capital crime. That would be fucking great.

    Fucking power-lusting assholes. Stop chickenshitting out of everything and just prosecute the sons of bitches.

  9. "He said, 'I can smell your pot.'"

    "I see. I myself cannot. You have the debris of approximately thirty-eight chicken and cheese taquitos stuck between your teeth and under your fingernails, and a little bit of one in each of your ears, and sometimes the reason you eat forty taquitos in the car is because you're high. But not today."

    1. I assume bong water was flung in her face.

  10. Don't you have to burn pot to smell it? Does the plant even give off any odor?

    1. Yeah, it's a pretty strong and definable odor, especially under the heat of high intensity lights.

      1. Does it smell a lot like hops growing? I always assumed it did.

        1. Stop pretending that you don't know, dude. You aren't fooling anyone, including the cops that I regularly rat everyone here out to.

          1. Like everyone doesn't already know you are the narc.

            1. They're on to me!

        2. Yes, but with a deeper funk. Skunky, but not acrid. It's a smell that you can get used, though. Unlike skunk or rotting flesh.

          1. And, of course, there are ways to limit the smell. You can ionize the hell out of your grow, which helps. It also reduces the odor of the finished product, though.

            Umm, that's what I've read on TV, anyway.

    2. Are you fucking insane? Don't talk about narcotics on the Internet, dude. You'll wake up one night to find a heavily armed and armored DEA agent sticking the muzzle of an M16A4 up your ass.

      I'm packing my shit and supplies and moving off the grid. Plenty of ammo, too!

    3. They fucking reek to high heaven, especially the good stuff. That shit smells like a dead skunk.

      1. It really is a nasty plant.

        1. Put up a couple ionizers and the smell is gone.

        2. It smells like skunk, but in a good way. It's a lovely plant. Or so I've been told.

      2. its the sticky icky babieee!!11!111!

  11. The Times says Cole noticed "concrete blocks stacked in stair-step fashion on his neighbor's property next to his fence," and he "thinks officers might have put them there to vault his fence."

    Oh come on! Like they would be able to vault anything, other than fellow cops on their way to the doughnut trough.

  12. I trust that the offending officers will be severely disciplined, if not terminated outright, for the serious violation of making false statements in official reports. Not only is that supposed to be considered a cardinal employment sin among law enforcement officers. Any record of such misconduct must also be disclosed to defense counsel in any future case in which these officers may testify, and may be used to impeach their credibility. That's why many police departments now say that any officer caught fibbing in official reports is useless to the department and should be terminated.

    1. in my dept. and i am glad it is so, dishonesty is the one offense that gets no second chances

      you lie in a report or on the stand.

      and you are GONE

      we had a guy we fired because 10 yrs after he was hired, somebody found out he had lied about something in his background packet when he applied

      again, TEN YEARS AGO

      no crime. but that was all it took.


      you can get a dui and get a 3-5 day suspension. but you are dishonest? gone

    2. under "brady " principles, it's also viewed as exculpatory (as it should be) and must be disclosed to defense

      here is a (imo EXCELLENT) article on this


  13. What about the judges who signed off on those lame "smelled it from the sidewalk" warrants. They need to be removed from the bench for gullibility/complicity in perjury.

  14. a detective secured a search warrant by stating that he could smell marijuana from a sidewalk

    To be fair, the detective could also suck an orange through a garden hose.

  15. MN School tells student he cant bring a porn star as his prom date and threatens to have her arrested if he does bring her. Apparently they deem bring a pornstar as a date if said date "is not in the best interest of students, employees or the school district."

    Link here

    1. Sorry wrong thread!

      1. i'd love to be the attorney for THAT arrest. arrested for WHAT?

        being a slut in the company of a minor (assuming the kid even IS a minor)?

        get real

  16. All power to the Soviets

  17. Is the Romney campaign like an Etch A Sketch?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.