Otsego County Judge Rules Medical Marijuana Caregiver Unlawfully Searched

"The Fourth Amendment protects my rights," Otsego Patients Resource Center operations manager Jolene Fowler said.

Medical marijuana activists happy with a court ruling they say upholds the Fourth Amendment or protection from unlawful search and seizures.

An Otsego County district court judge dismissed a caregiver’s possession charge because she believes police should not have searched his vehicle.

9 & 10’s Blayke Roznowski found out why activists think this is a win, but law enforcement disagrees.

"I’m really excited for the patients because I think the big thing is patients knowing what they’re rights are," Fowler said. 

An Otsego County district court judge recently dismissed Nandor Santhos’ charge of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.

His attorney, Todd Nye says a trooper stopped Santhos’ car for speeding and then searched it without evidence a crime was being committed.

"The trooper asked them, ‘do you have a card?’ ‘Yes, we have a card.’ The trooper asked him, ‘how much do you have?’ They said they have a lawful amount properly secured in our trunk in a locked container just like that statute says," Nye said.

In the judge’s opinion, there was not enough evidence for a search and this violated Santhos’ Fourth Amendment rights. 

"If they’re not committing a crime, a trooper cannot detain them on the side of the road and conduct illegal searches simply because they’re exercising their right to use marijuana," Nye said.  

But Otsego County prosecutor Michael Rola believes the search was lawful and it turned out Santhos did have more marijuana than allowed.

"What you look at is, was the detention unusually long, and our position was it’s not," Rola said. "There was, in fact, criminal activity, in fact, a felony being committed in the officers presence or at least a misdemeanor."

Medical marijuana activists say this is a huge win for them.

"I think this is a great ruling to protect the medical rights of patients and to give you that time and ability to say, ‘no I’m a patient and my medical card is all I need to show you today," Fowler said. 

Rola says they plan submit for reconsideration and if the the opinion remains, they will appeal.