Friday, December 23, 2011

Questionable Tactics Used by Pinellas County Law Enforcement in Marijuana Sting Operation

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office tactics used during a recent undercover marijuana sting.


The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office recently conducted a sting to apprehend alleged marijuana growers.  In this instance, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office utilized some questionable tactics - they secretly videotaped customers of a Largo based hydroponic gardening shop on Ulmerton Road.  When customers visited the shop they had no idea that the Sheriff’s Office was watching and recording their license plates via a hidden camera placed on a utility pole nearby the shop.

Using the license plate, detectives ascertained the driver’s home address from Department of Motor Vehicle records and then showed up at the customers’ homes questioning if they were growing marijuana.  If the alleged offenders were not completely cooperative, detectives got search warrants which in some cases were obtained by stating that the officers could smell marijuana from outside the home - more than 50 feet away.

Why This Matters To You:

This investigation and sting by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office shows that law enforcement can sometimes take an aggressive approach in apprehending alleged marijuana grow house operators and drug offenders.  While hydroponics are used in some cases to grow marijuana, the water-based gardening method is used for legitimate plant and food growing as well.  The goods for sale at this store are legal, and the business is operating within the law.  Many law abiding customers frequent the store to purchase products to organically grow food and to shop for natural pesticides.

It is worrisome that law enforcement is using surveillance tactics to target a legal place of business and customers who are abiding the law shopping at the store.  It would appear that law enforcement is tying together otherwise legal activity and interpreting it as evidence that a crime may be underway.  Hydroponic gardening is legal.  Shopping at Simply Hydroponics is legal.  

What To Do Next:

If you have been charged with possession of marijuana, operating a marijuana grow house, possession of drug paraphernalia, or any other marijuana offense in the Tampa Bay area, contact a St. Petersburg Marijuana Crime Lawyer to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss you case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help.  Attorney Melinda Morris has specific knowledge and experience in defending marijuana offenses and representing juvenile offenders throughout Pinellas County the entire Tampa Bay, FL area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Manatee, Sarasota and Bradenton).