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The "Knock and Talk" Being Doubly Wary of Speaking to Police

Another example of the advice that one should not speak to police is particularly apt for people who may be suspected of growing marijuana.

Euphemistically, here in NJ, police call one of their particular marijuana related operations a “knock and Talk.” The operation is anything but. When police suspect that marijuana may be grown in a house they organize multiple agencies to “respond” on a predetermined date and time to the location – a show of force. Indeed during cross examination police have conceded that a “ knock and talk” is organized just as a forcible search warrant raid would be.

It usually goes down like this: Police have only a mere suspicion that folks are growing marijuana in their homes. Maybe they have been tipped off by informants at a growing supply store (which of course sell an entire range of legal articles); maybe the police have done an illegal drive by thermal imaging of a house to see if heat from some kind of grow situation exists.

As an aside, its illegal for police to do a thermal imaging scan of a home without a warrant. But if they do one and then intimidate the owners to “consent to a search,” the illegality goes by the wayside as the law will see the consent as “ curing” the illegality.

In any event, for the “ knock and talk,” police show up in force. Some go to each entry/exit of the residence. (Query if its just a knock and talk, by virtue of what right would cops have to stop anyone from leaving the house and refusing to talk. None, really). Yet too often faced with intentional, intimidating show of force, people often “consent” to let police in their homes. At that point cops usually talk the occupants into signing a “consent to search form” by misleading the occupant about the fact that once signed the form will allow police to search all areas of the residence and every nook and cranny, totally tossing the contents about if the police wish.

The best advice to deal with a “knock and talk” is simply not to open the door and certainly not allow police consent to search the home. As with speaking with police, one should be extremely hesitant to sign anything, like a consent from, with out a lawyer present. Since police have no search warrant when conducting a knock and talk, it is not necessary to open the door, one could speak through the door if they wish. Stories are legion about how once inside the house police allege that they smell marijuana and can then get an actual warrant.

The “knock and talk” is a bit of NJ legal schizophrenia. Because of proven abuses with racial profiling, police need a reasonable basis to even ask to search a car. But, our Supreme Court has reasoned, the home was not the site of such abuses - despite the inherently intimidating and abusive nature of the “knock and talk.”

Lastly, it bears repeating that purchasers of growing equipment, even on line, have been regularly subjected to “knock and talks.” In fact to help put a light on the issue, it would be helpful to start gathering details of “knock and talks” that netted nothing other than legal indoor growing materials.
Contact my office for more information.  Jason Charles Matey Attorney

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