Just two nights ago Michael Gitschier of Amesbury, Massachusetts was arrested and charged with numerous Massachusetts Drug Crimes. A Newburyport, Massachusetts newspaper reports that an Amesbury Police Officer noticed a very bright light shining in a downtown apartment. The officer radioed for assistance. A second officer arrived and the two approached the home to inquire. When they did they were met with a strong odor of Marijuana. One of the cops then looked into a window where he claims to have seen between twenty and twenty five pot plants. The officer reported that seeing grow lights and an irrigation system set up as well. With this information the police applied for and were granted a Search Warrant. The warrant was served, the search was executed and Gitschier was arrested. The forty two year old Gitschier was charged with Possession With Intent to Distribute Marijuana, a Class D Substance, Possession of Marijuana as a Second and Subsequent Offense and Malicious Destruction to Property. The latter charges stems from allegations that the defendant tapped into a neighbor’s utilities to facilitate the growth of the plants and arguable to avoid detection for excessive utility bills. Gitschier was charged in the Newburyport District Court where during his arraignment it was alleged that he admitted to committing the crimes charged. The owner of the apartment posted Gitschier’s bail which was set at two thousand five hundred dollars. The article states that the officer making the discovery viewed the bright light in the apartment as out of place and warranting further investigation.
As a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer I am interested in seeing the affidavit used to obtain the Search Warrant. As most readers know, if that document fails to articulate sufficient probable cause for the issuance of the Search Warrant the search will fail, the drugs will be suppressed and Gitschier’s case will likely be dismissed. One of the questions I have is exactly what did the officer’s do when they approached the home? Where were they when they saw the excessively bright lighting? From where did they approach the defendant’s home? What was the defendant’s expectation of privacy relative to the place from where the officer peered into the window to make his observation? Here is something else. Do you really think that someone who put together an elaborate Marijuana Cultivation operation would leave a portion of his window uncovered? Are there any surveillance cameras in the area that can show exactly what the police officers did in this case? Some pretrial investigation work is likely to reveal the answers to these questions. The results of this work will have an important impact on the ultimate outcome of this case.