Carl F. Worden
Vermont judge rejects U.S. Supreme Court search ruling
Sun Nov 26, 2006 21:59

Vermont judge rejects U.S. Supreme Court search ruling

July 11, 2006

GUILDHALL, Vt. --A Vermont District Court judge has rejected a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the power of police to search a private home, concluding that the state offers greater protections in such cases.

Judge Robert Bent said that under the state Constitution police must knock and announce themselves before conducting a search, even if they have a warrant, or face the prospect that any evidence they find could be thrown out.

The Supreme Court said June 15 that evidence obtained without first knocking could be used at trial, but Bent said that would not apply in Vermont.

"Evidence obtained in violation of the Vermont Constitution, or as the result of a violation, cannot be admitted at trial as a matter of state law," Bent wrote, citing an earlier state case as precedent. "Introduction of such evidence at trial eviscerates our most sacred rights, impinges on individual privacy, perverts our judicial process, distorts any notion of fairness and encourages official misconduct."

A defense lawyer in the Vermont case said Bent's ruling was an important statement. "Sanity prevails in Vermont," said attorney David Williams.

Bent agreed with the dissenting opinion in the federal case, which said allowing otherwise illegally obtained evidence to be used could lead law enforcement officers to ignore the law.

"The exclusionary remedy should remain in full force and effect," Bent wrote, "at least in our small corner of the nation."

Unless the attorney general's office appeals Bent's ruling to the Vermont Supreme Court, it applies only to the drug case he was hearing and would not be binding on other judges, legal experts said. But other judges are likely to take it into consideration if they have similar issues, said Cheryl Hannah, a Vermont Law School professor.

It was unclear whether the state would appeal to the high court. The prosecutor on the case was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Williams challenged evidence the Vermont State Police Drug Task Force obtained against Ellen Sheltra last fall during a raid on her Island Pond home. She was charged with marijuana possession.

The officers were gathering in front of the home Oct. 12 when the door suddenly opened, an officer testified. The agents shouted "state police with a search warrant" and stormed inside, Bent wrote in his ruling.

The judge concluded the officer's testimony wasn't credible, noting that the three adults and two children in the house said they did not open the door.

Police seized 88 grams of marijuana and four guns.


Information from: The Burlington Free Press,

Subject: FW: Judge REJECTS Supreme Court Ruling!!!! (Glory Be To The FATHER!)

Well, well, well…

Gang, everybody in every state needs to lobby for this. Here in Oregon, we passed a law that prohibits government from confiscating private property and giving it over to private enterprise. So just because the Supremes say it is okay, you can stop it at the state level in SOME cases.

Where it gets sticky is when the feds claim jurisdiction under the Commerce Clause – as they did when the Supremes ruled the feds could still enforce Marijuana cultivation, possession and distribution in states that passed medical marijuana laws like California and Oregon.

Being in the insurance business, I’m getting feedback from a number of clients locally who have obtained Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Cards, and it is ALL positive. Mostly, they are not smoking Marijuana to relieve their pain; they are taking it orally in the form of cookies and brownies. These people are older, for the most part, and never were potheads to begin with. But what they are telling me is compelling. They are relieving back pain without having to use dangerous and sometimes addictive drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin. People with sleep apnea are reporting they sleep normally all night again. Two of my clients, whom I’ve known for years, confided that using oral Marijuana somehow reduced and stopped bleeding from hemorrhoids. How that works, I can’t even guess. Does the active ingredient in Marijuana increase clotting or reduce swelling? Based on what I’m being told, medical use of Marijuana may have far greater applications than just relief from the effects of Chemotherapy in cancer patients.

Anyway, you will rejoice in this Vermont judge’s ruling. It’s a terrific step forward toward re-securing the most basic rights the current Supreme Court has little respect for.

Carl F. Worden

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