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Court: Drug Charge OK In Worried Neighbor Case

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DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - In a split decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals says a local man can face drug charges even though police entered his home without a search warrant and discovered marijuana growing in a closet.

The case centered on whether the search of Eric Hill’s Hazel Park home in 2010 fit one of the few exceptions for entering a house without a court order.

In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court said it did. Judges William Whitbeck and William Murphy said they could just imagine the “community uproar” if the officers had stayed outside and Hill truly needed help.

“Public criticism regarding the lack of police action would be, in our view, reasonable and deserved,” the court said in reversing an Oakland County judge’s decision to throw out the evidence.

Hazel Park police went to Hill’s home around midnight after someone in the neighborhood said they hadn’t seen him for a few days and his cats were looking out the window. There was recent mail in the mailbox, a new phonebook on the porch, leaves on the car and a light on inside the house, among other signs.

Officers opened an unlocked window and yelled for Hill but got no answer. They decided to go inside and discovered marijuana under a grow light in a closet. Hill, now 46, was not home.

In a vigorous dissent, Judge Jane Markey said police, through “sloppy to negligent” conduct, violated Hill’s constitutional right against unreasonable searches.

“There simply was no emergency call and no emergency,” Markey said. “Rather, a neighbor of unknown credibility provided information that she had not seen defendant or his car moved for a few days.”

Hill’s attorney, Terri Antisdale, agreed. She said the appeals court justified its decision by linking it to a 2011 ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court. That case involved a firefighter seeing marijuana after entering a Royal Oak townhouse to hunt for a major water leak.

“It’s not anywhere close to this case. … This is absolutely ridiculous,” Antisdale said.

TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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