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National Guard helicopter, seven cop vehicles sent to warrantlessly seize a single marijuana plant from an 81-year-old Massachusetts grandmother

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Nov.7, 2016

81-year-old Peg Holcomb of Amherst, Mass wasn't home when a low-flying Massachusetts National Guard helicopter and seven ground-based law-enforcement vehicles raided her home, and demanded that her son allow them to seize a single marijuana plant she'd been cultivating in her back yard.

Though the officers and Guardsmen had a lot of military-surplus gear, they didn't actually have a warrant.

Ms Holcomb says that her constitutional rights have been violated.

The “plain view” doctrine says police don’t need a warrant to seize evidence if three requirements are met: they saw it from a lawful vantage point, its “incriminating character is immediately apparent,” and they have a lawful right of access to the object. Minnesota v. Dickerson (1993). “From the air” is usually a lawful vantage point, and a pot plant is incriminating evidence in Massachusetts (though maybe not for long). But I think the problem is the “lawful access” requirement. That is, just because police see something through your window doesn’t mean they can break into your house to get it. They’d have probable cause to get a warrant, but they’d have to go get one.

National Guard Deployed to Seize One Marijuana Plant [Kevin Underhill/Lowering the Bar]