By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press
FRANKFORT - Pike County sheriff's deputies improperly seized marijuana as they "went snooping" in a house trailer and outbuilding without a search warrant, the Kentucky Court of Appeals said Friday.
However, other marijuana plants that were in plain view were properly confiscated and could be admitted as evidence at trial, a three-judge panel ruled.
The appeal was by Jeanette Lindeman and Clifton Machniak. They entered conditional guilty pleas after Pike County Circuit Judge Charles Lowe Jr. refused to suppress the evidence. The appellate ruling sent the case back to Lowe's court. Lindeman and Machniak would have to decide whether to seek to change their pleas and go to trial.
Deputies Chris Phillips and Bob Wright went to the trailer after taking Lindeman's juvenile son into custody on suspicion of drug use. Wright smelled marijuana and walked to the back, where he found marijuana plants growing in six buckets in plain view.
Lindeman and Machniak, her boyfriend, were arrested. From the porch, one deputy saw marijuana and a scale on a coffee table inside the trailer.
Phillips testified that, after taking the juvenile inside to retrieve some medication, he saw more marijuana plants in the kitchen, a bedroom and a hallway. Wright found plants in an outbuilding with a shaded window.
Lindeman and Machniak were charged with cultivating more than five marijuana plants with the intent to traffic.
Because they did not contest the officers' right to enter the property, marijuana plants found in plain view behind the trailer and immediately upon entering the trailer with Lindeman's consent could be admitted as evidence, the court said.
The defendants contended Phillips went beyond consent when he ventured down a hallway, and the appeals court agreed.
"Instead of merely escorting the juvenile into the residence, Deputy Phillips left the juvenile alone and ventured some 50 feet down a hallway," Chief Judge Tom Emberton of Edmonton said in writing for the appeals court. "Although he did not open any drawers or doors, he exceeded the scope of Lindeman's permission."
Phillips said he walked through the trailer for self-protection, to make sure no one else was there. Emberton noted that the adult suspects were outside and unarmed. Nor had they threatened the officers.
Emberton said "... The officers, to put it simply, went snooping."
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