Win on Appeal for Lothstein Guerriero!

Today, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed convictions for Possession of Controlled Drugs with Intent to Distribute, and Manufacturing Marijuana. State v. Stephen Socci, No. 2013-182 (N.H. July 8, 2014).

This is the first appellate win for the firm of Lothstein Guerriero, PLLC - and appeals lawyer Ted Lothstein's 15th appellate win in the New Hampshire Supreme Court!

Police Officers Search Private Property without a Warrant

Police officers with the Rockingham County Drug Task Force, Kingston Police Department, and Rockingham County Sheriff Department marched onto Stephen Socci's property with the intent of trying to get him to consent to a search of his home. They believed he was growing marijuana there. They conceded they had no probable cause to get a search warrant.

One of the officers, without a warrant, walked all the way around his garage, finding evidence that marijuana was being grown in there. Meanwhile, officers tried to get his wife to consent to a search - but she said no.

If You Don't Consent, We're Coming Back with Sledgehammers and Things will be Getting Messy

The officers, undeterred, had her call her husband and he came home from work while they waited. They then confronted him with their discoveries and got him to "consent" to a search of his garage without the need to get a search warrant. Stephen and his wife testified that the officers got him to consent by making threats to bring back sledgehammers, that "things would get messy", and that the State might take away their children, if Socci made them get a warrant.

Court Issues Strong Rebuke of the Drug Task Force

The NH Supreme Court, in a strongly worded opinion, found that the search around the garage violated the Fourth Amendment.

  • Because [the officer]’s physical intrusion on the undisputed curtilage of the home to gather evidence was neither explicitly [n]or implicitly permitted by the homeowner, it was a search under the Fourth Amendment. As it was conducted without a warrant, and under no recognized exception to the warrant requirement, the search was not constitutionally permissible under the Federal Constitution, and evidence obtained as a result of the search was, by that same authority, inadmissible in a state court.

Felony Convictions Reversed!

The Court also found that the trial court had misapplied the governing legal standards in deciding that Mr. Socci, nevertheless, gave "consent" for the search. Thus, the Court reversed Socci's convictions and remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.

Read our brief on appeal: Socci - Appellant brief

Read the Opinion of the Court in State v. Socci.

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