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Name: People v. Morton
Case #: A101269
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 12/31/2003
Subsequent History: 1/7/04: Opn. mod. without chg in jmt

Police officers received an anonymous tip that the owners of a commercial nursery were cultivating marijuana. Officers visited the nursery, but saw no evidence of cultivation. A month later, they received another call that someone had “ripped off” the nursery. Officers saw marijuana debris and smelled marijuana when they responded to the nursery, but saw no persons injured or in distress. Ultimately, officers obtained a search warrant based on their observations at the nursery. The affidavit did not mention any safety concerns. However, at a hearing on the suppression motion, officers claimed to be investigating a theft and to be concerned about the safety of the defendants. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that the officers’ warrantless entry onto the property was justified under the community caretaker exception. The appellate court here reversed the denial of the suppression motion. Even assuming that the officer’s testimony was credible, the evidence supporting the application of the community caretaking exception was neither reasonable nor of solid value. Since the search warrant was based on the officers’ observations of marijuana on the property after their unlawful entry, it was invalid.