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Helicopter Surveillance Is Legal, Says Virginia Court

Written by Gary North on July 5, 2012

A circuit court judge in Virginia has ruled that it was not illegal for the police to use a helicopter to look for marijuana on a man’s 39-acre farm.

The police say they found two stalks in a weed patch. He will be prosecuted.

It’s a misdemeanor, not a felony. In short, it’s a minor crime.

Why do police have the right to do this without a search warrant?

What agency supplied the helicopter? Why?

What were the police not investigating while they were looking for weed among the weeds?

Here is what his lawyer said. (I have known his lawyer for 30 years.)

“Despite the fact that Philip had no knowledge about the presence of what officials claimed were marijuana plants growing on his property, the Commonwealth had no photographic evidence to back up their claims, and it took the Commonwealth more than a month to issue a citation in the case, Cobbs was still charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession, which carries maximum penalties of 30 days in jail and/or a $500 fine—the circuit court is allowing this case to move forward. This is not at all what I would consider justice.”

The defendant is not a menace to society.

Philip Cobbs, a 53-year-old former teacher who cares for his blind, deaf 90-year-old mother, lives on a 39-acre tract of land in eastern Albemarle County that has been in his family since the 1860s. On the morning of July 26, 2011, while spraying the blueberry bushes near his Virginia house, Cobbs noticed a black helicopter circling overhead. After watching the helicopter for several moments, Cobbs went inside to check on his mother. By the time he returned outside, several unmarked police SUVs had driven onto his property, and police in flak jackets, carrying rifles and shouting unintelligibly, had exited the vehicles and were moving toward him. The police officers claimed they had sighted marijuana plants growing on Cobbs’ property and ordered Cobbs to produce them. Distressed and intimidated by the show of force, Cobbs indicated his lack of knowledge about any marijuana plants on his property. In response, one of the police officers radioed up to the helicopter, which then directed the officers to an area in the yard where an oak tree had fallen. Within the limbs of the fallen tree and an adjoining bush were two plants protruding, which the officers claimed were the alleged marijuana plants. The police then asked to search Cobbs’ greenhouse, which turned up nothing more than used tomato seedling containers. Over a month later, Cobbs received a summons charging him with possession of marijuana under Va. Code § 18.2-250.1, which provides that “ownership or occupancy of the premises or vehicle upon or in which marijuana was found shall not create a presumption that such person either knowingly or intentionally possessed such marijuana.”

Yes, Virginia, there really are black helicopters . . . in Virginia.

Who’s next?

Continue Reading on www.rutherford.org

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14 thoughts on “Helicopter Surveillance Is Legal, Says Virginia Court

  1. Patriot1776 says:

    Thousands of dollars and man hours used to persue a common citizen on whose land 2 plants that may have been marijuana. This case will move forward…The attorney general authorized the illegal movement of arms to Mexico in Operation Fast and Furious, causing the loss of life of American Border Patrol agents and arming drug trafficers, and then commenced with a cover up lying to Congress and the American people. The DOJ will not prosecute this case. Who is the government for? It is time to return to the values and morals of our Founding Fathers and the Constitution that they provided for us.

  2. Fritz329th says:

    GGGEEEE, that was not expense. At about 2-3 hundred an hour for Helo maintenance, this arrest did not cost the tax payers to much money. DUD.

  3. and people scoff at allen west when he says there are at least seventy communist in congress think harry ried, chuck schummer, nasty polosi, for starters

  4. About five years ago, I was setting off small rockets, (reached about 200 feet), at an old Air Force Base. It has been taken over by all kinds of commercial, and "who knows" enterprises. There was a black helicopter that circled the base about every 12 minutes. Naturally, we timed our launces at a point in time where they were not a danger to him. After about half an hour, a black car approached, Young man gets out. He said he was the pilot, and he appreciated that we were careful about his flights. He encouraged us to continue, as some of his best memories were from his father taking him to do the same thing. In our conversation, he disclosed that he worked for Homeland Security. He shrugged and smiled when I mentioned them anyway… Nice Guy, no worries, right? Naaa, about 10 min. later, some security gaurd with an inflated sense of purpose and authourity, came by and told us to stop, and leave. He laughed and called me a liar shen I told him I had spoken with the pilot. I shook my head, and we left. Yes, black helicopters DO exist, piloted by one of our nations youngest and best, (in this instance)…

  5. I own a 89 acre farm about 45 miles from where I live. Someone else farms it, butless than 1/4 north of it is an abandoned railroad right of way than the railroad used hemp to control erosion and weeds backinthe 40's and 50's occasionally a plant or two shows up on the farm an the tenant removes them. I suppose if one of these drones were to find them first, he or I could go to jail and the farm taken by the county. I don't live in a state where poseession is considered a misdemeanor.

  6. Wow this is awful. It was once legal to pay Virginia taxes in hemp (Heinemann, R. L. (2007). Old Dominion, new commonwealth: A history of Virginia, 1607-2007. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press., p. 140) and this poor guy may have very well had a bird eat some hemp seed and discharge it out over his land, but he is being prosecuted for it. It is also possible that the man wanted to grow some cannabis in order to relieve his mother's pain but apparently hospitality is illegal. The United States has built up a huge military-industrial complex and I think the only thing on our side is time and the possibility of educating our children to enter a world with less interest in money and greed and more support for international cooperation and peace.

  7. weRnotFREE says:

    This is nothing new to me. I've lived in VA all my life and I can tell you most local law authorities in the state have nothing better to do than look for people with cannabis. The helicopters (yes, helicopters, plural) in Northern VA are also fitted with IR sensors used to detect grow houses. The cannabis plant itself also gives off more heat than other plants so it can be picked up by IR as well. All of this is perfectly "legal" to do by authorities in VA. It's really sad.

  8. Bill McCroskey says:

    Total waste of taxpayers money, but what else is new ? The war on drugs is nothing more than a 'jobs program' funded by about 1% asset seizures and 99% by the taxpayers. I do NOT nor have I ever used ANY illegal substance (including cigarettes) but those that do could care less if it was a capital punishment crime for using. It is stupid to pour our tax resources into a rat hole for a lifestyle choice

  9. Steve McGowin says:

    I agree with Bill. Much of this war on drugs is a jobs program for law enforcement. What particularly disturbs me is the fact that the prison guard union actively lobbies to keep marijuana laws and penalties on the books, even when state legislatures are trying to decriminalize marijuana offenses. We aren't just wasting taxpayer dollars by continuing to fight a lost war on drugs, we are taking away people's freedom – all so law enforcement types and bureaucrats can continue to justify their existence and their paychecks.

  10. texasladyjuanita says:

    It may be legal – but it is a stupid waste of taxpayer dollars to search land for pot plants. Idiots. If the guy was growing more than two stalks of pot, enough to get your underwear in a bunch, there would be some serious buying and selling going on with the young folks in town – and then you would have probable cause to waste the fuel, salaries, and wear and tear on a helicopter to find out if the guy is growing large quantities of pot.
    Let me tell you a story about two 7th graders several years back. I get a call at work to come to the Jr. High immediately for my son and step son were in possession of half a joint. Off I go. In the office with me is my ex-husband, the principal, a plain clothes cop, and a "Dare" cop. They are all passing around an envelope with the 1/2 joint in it, acting like they have found the drug bust of the year. I interrupted them and asked if I could please see what they were looking at. It was not pot. I told them it was 1/2 of a Turkish cigarette. They did not believe me. I have a little clout and make my own threats to force them to test it. I insisted that the charges be dropped. I did, however, insist that the boys do community service instead – because, even though it was not pot – they used their week's lunch money to purchase what they thought was a joint. Indeed. Of course, the test came back negative for pot, and positive for Turkish tobacco. GEEEEEEZ folks just drive me crazy sometimes.

  11. AD Roberts says:

    If this farm had been used by commercial growers of marijuana, the police would have been paid off to ignore them. But these idiots were playing around and found a GRAND TOTAL OF TWO PLANTS. What a joke. Do you suppose this is a part of the drive to legalize marijuana. You have to harrass citizens who have NO desire to puff puff but find they have had a wild plant that MIGHT be marijuana growing on their land? And the court decided that looking for TWO plants was sufficient grounds to have a warrantless search by the policeboys with their new toy. LOL

    Forget the real criminals who are going to steal millions and steal elections. Go get the poor guy who did not search his property and get rid of something that LOOKED like marijuana from a drone helicopter in the sky.


  12. AD Roberts says:

    Let's just legalize it so we can increase the number of people killed by those who are under the influence. After all, we know that the war on drunk driving is lost. Why not just make it legal to take any drugs that you want at any time you want. We can't stop it obviously. And to those who happened to get killed by the idiots who absolutely insist on getting high, well you poor stupid person. You should have known better than to be on the road when the space cadets were out.

    It was your fault.

    Sounds to me like Steve McCowin is a pot head. What a joke.

  13. AD Roberts says:

    Your pain argument is bogus. That is until Obamacare stops treating anyone who is considered worthless to society. Right now, people can get meds to control pain.

    But when the panels are put into effect, I strongly suspect that YOU will be one of those people who are considered worthless to society, or as they call it THE GREATER GOOD.

  14. American Thinker says:

    Prescription pain medications are adictive, marijuana is not. Prescription pain medication abuse is huge in America and encouraged by the pharaceutical companies.

    We should legasize pot and use law enforcement to chase the real criminals. Cut the legs out from under the gangs too. Use some common sense, you sound like a propgandist for the drug trade!