The Raid Observer's Guide to
1998 Marijuana Raids
What to Watch For - Who to Call
NEW! Environmental Restrictions in Humboldt County
TRO Main page
Purpose of documenting complaints
Interfering with Raids: Not
Basic Considerations
Helicopters in the air
Environmental effects of any aircraft
Troops on the ground - distant
Troops on the ground - speaking distance
Troops on private property -curtilage
Troops on private property - adjacent parcels
Medical marijuana
Sniffer dogs and CHP stops


Restrictions on activities during marijuana raids have been imposed by various courts and governing bodies over the 15 years we have struggled to control them. The sheriff may argue that one or another restriction is not currently a requirement, or that it affects only part of the operations. These technical issues are not our concern. Each of these restrictions has been found to be reasonable by a court or governing body at some point, and we will argue that violating them is not reasonable, and is grounds to alter or terminate the operations.

Purpose: We are building a body of documentation of problems with the marijuana raids which will inform the public of what is being done in their name and with their tax money, bring home the real consequences of legislation to law makers, and give us evidence to use in courts of law when we seek to have the courts enforce peopleís rights. We seek information which may be made public, and which the observers will support by testifying to in court if necessary.

Method: Observers can use equipment as basic as their eyes and ears, and a pencil and paper; or as technological as video cameras and cell phones. There is nothing more effective than an eyewitness. If you spot a violation the next step after informing us is to write down what you witnessed. The sooner the better so you don't forget anything.

Interfering with Raids: In a word: Don't. It is a crime to interfere with a police officer who is carrying out his duties. It is not a crime to watch how the officer behaves, however, as long as you are not in the way. It is also not a crime to report what you see. If someone in law enforcement interferes with your observation by making you move unreasonably, seizing your notes or equipment, or threatening you in any way, document that. Such behavior is a large problem in itself, and getting away with it leads to bad attitudes on the part of law enforcement.

Caution: There is a law about repeating to others what you hear on police scanner frequencies but I'm not certain what it is.
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Basic to all raids:
Law enforcement  "operations and activities [may] not violate the constitutional rights of any citizen or unnecessarily inconvenience or disrupt the public" (CAMP policy set forth in the consent decree).
 Therefore if you are
1. inconvenienced, or
2. your activities are disrupted by law enforcement operations,
whether a particular standard listed here is violated or not, and you feel that this was unnecessary (on this raid in particular - we are not dealing with the question of whether marijuana prohibition is necessary) then we want to hear the complaint.

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Particular things to watch for.
We want to hear about violations of the standards listed below even if they don't inconvenience or disrupt you or your activities.  Report to: 923-4764, or

1. Helicopter Sightings: In the air

 a. Must be 500 feet from any known "structure, person or vehicle" and from "the hemisphere extending 500 feet from the outer circumference of the curtilage of any residence." (Consent Decree)

 b. Must be 2000 feet or more from any endangered bird species habitat. (Supes)

 c. When ferrying personnel, supplies, or cut crops, the helicopters shall take the most direct route available that overflies the fewest private residences. (Consent Decree)

 d. Must be operated so as to present no risk of harm to people and property.   (FAA- TRO)

 e. Must create no substantial impact on the environment (CEQA)

 f. Identifying numbers and marks on helicopters (and fixed wing aircraft) shall be clearly identifiable and shall not be covered, defaced, or otherwise obscured.( Consent decree)

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Effects on the environment: Helicopters and aircraft

 Generally speaking law enforcement operations should be conducted to minimize injurious environmental effects. To the extent that we can show environmental effects which are serious, or repeated, or cumulative, or any combination of these factors, we can argue that the program should be altered or eliminated.

 a. Effects of down draft: dust, broken branches, vegetation whipping around.

 b. Effects upon wildlife: birds, deer etc.

 c. Effects upon domestic animals: livestock, pets

 d. Effects upon children

 e. Effects upon adults - humans are part of the environment.

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2. Troops on the ground: at a distance

 a. Law enforcement "operations and activities [may] not violate the constitutional rights of any citizen or unnecessarily inconvenience or disrupt the public ." (CAMP policy set forth in the consent decree).

 b. There should be no smoking while away from their office. (Supes)

 c. The vehicles and equipment should have spark arresters. (Supes)

 d. Law enforcement is supposed to confer with CDF before destroying water sources so as to avoid wasting water which might be needed for fire suppression.  (Supes). Report all water source destruction, please.

 e. California law requires that each officer have visible ID. [Code cite?]

 f. Consider environmental effects of troops: eg damage to water sources, pollution of streams, disposal of bodily wastes, affecting the ground so as to damage roads or encourage erosion in the fields, gratuitous destruction of vegetation.

 g. Watch for use of torches or spark emitting grinders to break locks.

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3. Troops on the ground: within speaking distance

You probably will not encounter or be able to speak with any law enforcement personnel. However if you do, keep in mind that the consent decree set standards for them to follow to show that they made a serious effort to avoid violations. If you are detained or arrested you may be able to learn much valuable information about the raiders attempt to properly conduct the raid as you will be around them for some hours. Stay alert.

 a.  The lead deputy and others "shall meet and carefully plan the raid in order to minimize the risk of violations>"

 b. Prior to the raid the "team leader or lead deputy shall orally brief each team member" about all restrictions on their activities, the plan in light of those restrictions, "the provisions of any applicable search warrant" and all supervisory decisions about the raid.

 c. "Before each raid beings, all helicopter pilots involved in that raid shall be orally briefed" about the restrictions on their flying, and the plan for the raid in light of those restrictions, specific altitude instructions, and "all known structures and population centers along the flight path, using maps and photographs when available."

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4. Private property

 a. Entry into curtilage:

  Except for open fields, troops should not enter private property unless they have

   1) Permission of the property owner, or

   2) a proper search warrant, or

   3) Exigent circumstances exist.  (Eg an emergency, hot pursuit)

  If you find them on your curtilage ask which of these conditions has been met, and in what way.

 b. Entry onto Property adjacent or near a raid:

  Except for open fields, troops should not go onto adjacent parcels unless one of the above conditions is met.  Neither the speculation that the parcel might contain a hazard, nor the fact that a structure is in the line of sight of a marijuana garden is an exigent circumstance.

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5. Everything else
 We can't predict everything that they might do wrong. If you see or experience things which seem wrong to you (given that non-medical marijuana is illegal) then we want to know about it.

6. Medical Marijuana:
 Medical marijuana is legal under California law for patients whose doctors approve or recommend their use of it.  It seems to be illegal under Federal Law. Due to the present confusion we would like to know about any incidents involving medical marijuana.

7. CHP and Sniffer Dogs
 The CHP procedures seem to generate illegal searches of vehicles quite often. We report CHP problems to Mark Drake who has been handling them for years. Let us know, weíll pass the word on.

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This page is spotter.html last updated July 1, 1998 by ED Denson.