County of Butte v. Superior Court

175 Cal. App. 4th 729 (2009)

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County of Butte v. Superior Court

California Court of Appeal
175 Cal. App. 4th 729 (2009)

Facts

David Williams (plaintiff) led a group of seven authorized medical-marijuana users who collectively grew marijuana at Williams’s home. A police officer working for Butte County (defendant) conducted a warrantless search of Williams’s home and found the collective’s 41 marijuana plants. Although Williams showed the officer the medical-marijuana authorization documentation for all seven members of the collective, the officer threatened to arrest Williams unless Williams destroyed 29 of the marijuana plants. The officer’s instruction to destroy the plants was apparently based on provisions in California’s medical-marijuana law that allowed an authorized medical-marijuana user to possess only 12 marijuana plants and required all members of a medical-marijuana collective to actively participate in growing marijuana for the collective. Williams destroyed the plants as instructed by the officer. Williams then filed a lawsuit against Butte County seeking to recover damages for the destroyed marijuana plants. Williams alleged that the police officer’s instruction to destroy the plants constituted an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of Williams’s constitutional due-process rights because the officer had neither a warrant nor probable cause to believe that Williams had committed a crime. Butte County filed a demurrer seeking to dismiss Williams’s lawsuit, which the trial court overruled. Butte County asked the California Court of Appeal for a writ of mandate overturning the trial court’s ruling.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Raye, J.)

Dissent (Morrison, J.)

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