How do the police establish probable cause to search a marijuana grow operation in Minnesota?

The investigation of a marijuana grow operation usually begins with information obtained from an informant. An informant is someone who may have a history of providing reliable information to the police in the past and is a part of the criminal underworld. The informant may be facing potential criminal drug charges and has agreed to cooperate with the police in order to either lessen a sentence or avoid criminal charges. The informant will typically have been inside the residence and witnessed the grow operation. The informant will cooperate by providing the police with detailed information regarding the name of the suspected grower, the address of the grow operation, the number of marijuana plants observed, and their location within the home.

In order to establish probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant, police will need to verify the truthfulness of the observations made by the informant. The police know that marijuana plants need light to grow and that flourescent lights are used as a light source. Police also know that grow lights need to be run on a continuous basis and that the kilowatt hours will be higher for a grow operation. Police will obtain electrical usage records for the grow operation and surrounding properties through the use of an administrative subpoena. Comparisons of the electrical usage records for the grow operation will be made against the electrical usage records for neighboring properties. If the electical usage records for the grow operation are unusually high in comparison to neighboring properties, the truthfullness of the informant’s observations will have been verified and support probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant.

Police may also attempt to bolster probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant by conducting a garbage search. Investigators will contact the local sanitation company and request that the garbage for the suspected property be held for the police to search for evidence of marijuana. When garbage bags are left at curbside for pick-up, the garbage is considered abandoned property and police are free to search it without violating the Fourth Amendment. If marijuana is found in the garbage bags, the discovery will further upport the issuance of a search warrant.

Police may also look to see if the windows of the grow operation residence are covered. If so, police will include this observation in their search warrant application and inform the judge that the windows of grow operations are typically covered in order to conceal the operation from public view.

If you or someone you know has been charged in Minnesota with maintianing a marijuana grow operation, you will need an experienced narcotics defense attorney to protect your freedom and your record. Call Robert J. Shane for a free phone consultation at (612) 339-1024 or visit his website for more information on the Best Defense to a controlled substance charge at