State Supreme Court To Hear Arguments In Marijuana Case Appeal

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in an appeal case involving a marijuana conviction for a Brighton-area man.

Dennis Keith Towne was sentenced in January 2014 to two days in jail and one year of probation for manufacturing marijuana, which police said was a “shared grow” among himself, his wife and their adult child, who were each medical marijuana caregivers. Michigan State Police troopers were at Towne’s Genoa Township home in December 2011 looking for his son on a felony complaint. When Towne indicated his son was not there and denied troopers entry to search for him, one trooper left to obtain a search warrant, while two others waited at the house. As they waited, one of the troopers saw “an excessive amount of smoke coming from the chimney” and saw Towne “literally shoving handfuls of marijuana into a fire.” After troopers broke a window to the home and made entry they found an 18-gallon plastic tote about one-quarter full of “processed marijuana” and 75 live plants in the basement.

Towne appealed the conviction all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court, arguing that a Livingston County Circuit Court judge was mistaken in denying a defense motion to dismiss the state’s evidence because it violated his Fourth Amendment protection from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” In October, the state’s highest court remanded the case back to the Court of Appeals and asked it to reconsider in light of a recent ruling in a similar case that officers had trespassed in the course of seeking information. But the Court of Appeals said it stood by its original decision, saying that the trooper in Towne’s case had witnessed the activities while on land not considered legally covered by the Fourth Amendment.

Towne again appealed and the case is now on the high court’s oral argument schedule for Wednesday, November 6th to address various aspects. Those include whether police exceeded the proper scope of a knock and talk and whether the police had sufficient grounds to believe that the subject of the arrest warrant was inside the defendant’s home. More information is provided about the case through the link. (JM)

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