A federal appeals court ruled that a Chicago police officer was within his rights to instigate a federal search of his daughter-in-law’s home for medical marijuana that he helped grow — even though he was motivated by a family dispute, Reason reported.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit determined that Officer Curtis Scherr did not violate Jennifer Scherr’s Fourth Amendment rights when he and Officer Ruben Briones obtained a search warrant against her, leading to her home being searched by DEA officials.
Jennifer Scherr had begun growing marijuana in her home in 2011 in an effort to treat her 7-year-old daughter Liza’s brain tumor by using cannabis oil. Curtis Scherr acquired the high-intensity light bulbs necessary to grow the plants, checked in on them periodically and advised her on how to avoid police detection. (The state of Illinois recently instituted a pilot program for medical marijuana use.)
But Curtis Scherr did not disclose his involvement in the operation when he petitioned for the warrant following the girl’s death in July 2012. By the time the search was conducted, Jennifer Scherr had disposed of the marijuana plants in the residence, and she was not arrested. She subsequently sued her father-in-law, Briones, and the city of Chicago, saying the search violated her constitutional rights.
Judge Richard Posner acknowledged in the court’s decision that the officer would not have been able to obtain the warrant if he had mentioned that he helped grow the marijuana involved, but wrote that the ulterior motive behind the warrant does not invalidate it.
“It is a sensible rule, though distasteful when applied in a case like this,” Posner wrote. “Without the rule, challenges to the legality of warrants could, and doubtless often would, devolve into investigations, likely to be inconclusive, of the mental states of the police officers who had applied for them.”
Curtis Scherr obtained the warrant as part of an escalating family dispute following his granddaughter’s death. The disagreement reportedly began when he objected to Jennifer Scherr’s wishes to keep the girl’s body in her home to give relatives the chance to pay their respects there. He later made an unsuccessful attempt to claim her ashes before driving to his daughter-in-law’s home, where he angrily confronted her before driving away.
“Curtis’s behavior, which culminated in the DEA’s search of his daughter-in-law’s house, was, if it was as the complaint describes it, atrocious,” Posner wrote, before suggesting that Jennifer Scherr would be better served filing a lawsuit in state court accusing her father-in-law of using his position to hurt her emotionally.
“There is little doubt (always assuming the truth of the allegations in the complaint) that Curtis Scherr intended to inflict severe emotional distress on his daughter-in-law and succeeded in doing so,” Posner stated.
July 7, 2014
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