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County of Butte v. Superior Court

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Sheriff came to Williams residence without a warrant, ordered Williams to destroy his marijuana plants, in which he had a medical marijuana authorization documents to cultivate the marijuana. Williams filed suit.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A sheriff’s actions, acting under state law, must be judged according to the state law her is ordered to protect.

    Facts.

    David Williams, a qualified medical marijuana patient, belongs to a seven-member collective of medical marijuana patients who contribute money, property, and labor to the cultivation of marijuana.  Each member receives an equal share of the produced marijuana. The marijuana was grown at Williams’ residence. When sheriffs came to Williams’ residence, without a warrant, Williams showed the sheriff that he and the other members had a medical marijuana recommendation by a physician. The sheriff, under threat of arrest, ordered Williams to destroy all but twelve of the forty-one medical marijuana plants. Williams complied. Williams brought suit on the grounds that the sheriff’s office violated state laws.

    Issue.

    Whether the sheriff had probable cause to order Williams to destroy his property, or whether a lack of probable cause led to a violation of Williams’ constitutional rights.

    Held.

    The sheriff did have probable cause to order Williams to destroy his property, and Williams’ constitutional rights were not violated.

    Dissent.

    Under the Fourth Amendment, one has a fundamental right to be free from governmental intrusions, absent a valid warrant. Here, the sheriff did not have a warrant or any grounds to detain Williams and order the destruction of the marijuana plants. Therefore, the sheriff’s did not have probable cause, and his actions constituted a violation of Williams” constitutional rights.

    Discussion.

    .Regardless of the fact that this case involves the marijuana in this case involved medical marijuana and a qualified patient, the individuals fundamental constitutional rights have been violated. The sheriff in this case was acting under California law, not federal law. Therefore, his conduct was proper under the state law.


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