There was over one hundred marijuana plants and thirty-seven pounds of weed in buckets … but not one egg. Of course, the suspect claimed only some of the weed was his, but the court held his claims were full of yolk.
[T]he totality of the circumstances shows that Blomquist’s consent was voluntary. When the officers arrived, Blomquist sized up the situation, decided he was best off cooperating, and consented to the search of the chicken coop and greenhouses. His Fourth Amendment rights were not violated, and the district court correctly denied his motion to suppress.
U.S. v. Blomquist
No. 19 – 2112 (2020)
Sixth Circuit Appellate Court
On three occasions in March 2017, Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office detectives observed Mr. Clifford Lautzenheiser visit Mr. Norman Blomquist’s residence. Each time, Mr. Lautzenheiser placed something in the trunk of his car and then drove to a parking lot where he sold marijuana to a third party.
In April 2017, on a fourth occasion, police arrested Mr. Lautzenheiser. He informed detectives that he had been purchasing marijuana from Mr. Lee Blomquist, the son of Mr. Norman Blomquist, on a weekly basis for approximately nine months. Mr. Lautzenheiser is a Wisconsin resident and does not possess a Michigan medical marijuana card. With the information obtained from Mr. Lautzenheizer, Dickinson County detectives obtained a search warrant for Mr. Norman Blomquist’s residence. As officers began to execute the warrant, Mr. Lee Blomquist walked out of small building, a chicken coop. The chicken coop was located on property adjacent to the scope of the search warrant and was actually on the property of Mr. Blomquist’s cousin.
Mr. Blomquist was detained and handcuffed and read his Miranda rights. He waived his right to remain silent, told the detectives that he possessed a Michigan medical marijuana card, asserted that he was in compliance with the law, and offered to give the officers a tour of the property. Mr. Blomquist showed the officers the interior of the chicken coop. The detectives found more than 100 marijuana plants in five rooms. Mr. Blomquist contends most of the plants are not his. The plants belong to other medical marijuana card holders, and he merely tends to the plants. Spoiler alert, Mr. Blomquist is lying. Mr. Blomquist also showed the officers the locked entrance to a space above the garage. In the space, the officers found approximately thirty-seven pounds of marijuana, which was packaged and separated in five-gallon buckets. The detectives did not seize the plants in the chicken coop.
Mr. Blomquist was charged federally with four crimes:
(1) Manufacturing 100 or more marijuana plants;
(2) Possession with the intent to distribute more than 100 marijuana plants;
(3) Conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana;
(4) Distribution of marijuana. Blomquist filed a motion for an evidentiary hearing, to enjoin the prosecution, and to dismiss the indictment.
Mr. Blomquist filed a Motion to Suppress. The motion focused on the detectives searching the chicken coop outside the scope of the search warrant. The detectives maintained that Mr. Blomquist provided consent while Mr. Blomquist countered that there was no consent and no warrant. Consequently, the marijuana should be suppressed.
The District Court [trial court] overruled the motion, maintaining that the detectives did have consent. Mr. Blomquist appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals which held “[T]he totality of the circumstances shows that Blomquist’s consent was voluntary. When the officers arrived, Blomquist sized up the situation, decided he was best off cooperating, and consented to the search of the chicken coop and greenhouses. His Fourth Amendment rights were not violated, and the district court correctly denied his motion to suppress.”. The Sixth Circuit came to this conclusion based on the following analysis:
Indeed, a magistrate judge aptly described Blomquist as giving the officers “a tour of his operation.” Not only did Blomquist consent to the search, he practically directed it.
For starters, although Blomquist was briefly detained as law enforcement officials secured his father’s property, he was quickly given a Miranda warning. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). He was thus fully aware that anything he shared with the officers could be used against him. And still, he led the officers on a tour of the chicken coop and greenhouses, explaining in detail how his growing operation worked. While the officers did ask Blomquist if he would show them where he grew his marijuana, they did not force him to do so or threaten him in any way.
What’s more, Blomquist was cooperative from the get-go. Why? Because—as his attorney explained at the sentencing hearing—he thought his operation was (mostly) legal under Michigan’s medical-marijuana laws. The record contains no sign that Blomquist so much as hesitated before showing the officers the outbuildings. And a suspect’s cooperation supports a finding of voluntary consent. Elkins, 300 F.3d at 648–49. Finally, the record contains no reason to think that Blomquist was uniquely susceptible to duress or coercion. Blomquist was 46 years old at the time of his arrest. He had received a high-school diploma and was trained as an electrician. After presiding over Blomquist’s trial, the district court described him as “a very intelligent individual.” Blomquist also had an extensive criminal history, giving him ample experience with the police and legal system. Indeed, in 2002, he was convicted of manufacturing more than 100 marijuana plants on this very property. Based on Blomquist’s personal characteristics and history with law enforcement, there is no reason to think his consent was the product of duress or coercion.
In sum, the totality of the circumstances shows that Blomquist’s consent was voluntary. When the officers arrived, Blomquist sized up the situation, decided he was best off cooperating, and consented to the search of the chicken coop and greenhouses. His Fourth Amendment rights were not violated, and the district court correctly denied his motion to suppress.
A forlorn Mr. Lee Blomquist picture appeared in a media story following his arrest.
Information for this article was obtained from the Western District of Michigan, Northern Division, U.S. v. Blomquist, 361 F. Supp 744 (2019) and U.S. v. Blomquist, No. 19 – 2112 (6th Cir. 2020).
- When a person consents to the search of their person, car or building he must waive his consent knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently. The voluntariness prong is always the most litigated when analyzing a consent search for law enforcement. Here, Mr. Blomquist’s arguments that he was coerced by the detectives was not valid. Both the district court and circuit court focused their analysis on Mr. Blomquist’s behavior. Nothing in his behavior indicated that law enforcement pressured him to ‘consent’ to a search. For more information on the Consent Doctrine see One Headlight, Two Joes and Three Stolen Checks totaling $202.02 Lead to THE Most Important Consent Case.
- In this case providing a Miranda warning to Mr. Blomquist provided a threshold that he could not return. Blomquist argued that he did could not have consented because he was pressured in to granting consent. But since the consent was requested AFTER a Miranda warning, Mr. Blomquist was on notice that ANYTHING he said could and would be used against him. This was especially persuasive to the court because Mr. Blomquist had previously been convicted of Marijuana trafficking on the SAME property years earlier. Additionally, in news reports, it stated that Mr. Blomquist had fled after he was charged and had to be re-captured to face trial. Essentially the court held that Mr. Blomquist was filled with more yolk than his marijuana-filled chicken coop.
Does your agency train on Consent Searches?
Don’t fail your training.
Don’t let your training fail you!
Be safe, smart and Objectively Reasonable!
Robert H. Meader Esq.