An honest judge should be praised for dismissing an outrageous marijuana dispensary case on the basis of entrapment by estoppel while law enforcement should be, but won't be, held accountable for shocking conduct in the name of We the People. Here's the law and facts:
If a government official has misled a defendant to believe that a certain conduct was legal, and the defendant believed that he or she was acting “pursuant to official authorization,” the “entrapment by estoppel” defense may be applicable.
Simply put, if a government official tells you that your medical marijuana dispensary is in compliance with the law and police raid your home and accuse you of being an illegal drug dealer, your case may have “entrapment by estoppel” written all over it.
This is exactly what happened to Annette Shattuck, a Michigan soccer mom, as she was starting her law-abiding medical marijuana dispensary. Shattuck followed all the legal paths to start her business, she requested all necessary permits, and requested several inspections to make sure everything was in compliance with the law.
Police Storm Troopers with Guns v Grandma and 4 kids
In July, 2014, a police task force raided both the medical marijuana dispensary and the Shattuck´s home. Law enforcers wearing ski masks allegedly held Annette Shattuck´s four underage children and their grandma, who was babysitting, at gunpoint. Valuable pieces of property were taken, including cash and important documents like birth certificates and adoption papers. In Shattuck's own words, they took “every belonging.”
Entrapment Granted, Case Dismissed 2 Years Later
In February, 2016, a Saint Claire County Court granted the defendant´s motion to dismiss the case against the Shattucks “on the grounds of entrapment by estoppel.” Their property, however was not returned in full or in good condition, and the family has undergone severe financial losses and trauma due to the incident.
In reality, the Shattucks were caught between a rock and a hard place, due to the fact that there are many gray areas between federal and state marijuana laws. Simply put, government officials may have been acting in good faith when they told the Shattucks that their business was legal, but the traumatic raid of their property revealed that law enforcement seldom gets its facts straight before pointing guns and seizing personal items.
Police Accountability in “Progressive” California? Not so Much
The Shattucks' case is just one example of a very common situation we California criminal defense attorneys observe on a regular basis in California, the state that pioneered medical marijuana laws back in 1996. Even though Annette Shattuck and her husband have been cleared of all charges, the sheriff's department is lagging in returning their personal property, and much of the property that was actually returned is seriously damaged.
How does something like this come to be? We tend to think that police officers and sheriffs are the good guys, here to help us, right? The dynamics at play here are really a microcosm of the problems facing America´s legal system as a whole; officials do not face accountability, and they are out of control.
Some Americans More Equal than Others: Police in a Class of their Own?
John Adams once said that America is a nation of laws, not of men and women. He was referring to the notion that America should be governed by laws, that the laws should be applied fairly, that no one should be above the law, and that there shouldn't be separate classes which are treated differently under the law.
The only explanation for law enforcement´s behavior in the case of Annette Shattuck and her family is that they felt that, because she had supposedly broken a law, a drug law, and because our country is engaged in a War on Drugs, it followed that they could do whatever they wanted to her and it wouldn't matter. Whatever they did, no matter how unethical or inhumane, they wouldn´t be held accountable for it.
The law enforcement officers who raided the Shattucks` property felt that they were in a separate class from that family and were entitled to do whatever they wanted. That is why they went ahead and stomped food on the floor, hung the mother's lingerie from the ceiling fan, and threatened to shoot the family dog in front of the children.
Just lovely, right? These are the kind of things that people who feel that there will be no accountability for their actions tend to do to individuals they believe to be in a lower class, a class that has no rights.
From what I have seen in my legal career, the Shattuck family should actually consider themselves fortunate on one front. They were among the lucky few to have a judge who essentially dismissed the case in the interests of justice, under an entrapment by estoppel defense.
The Judge understood that the family had sought and received approval from many city offices, the government had led them believe that what they were doing was legal and, therefore, it couldn't turn around and prosecute them for the very same acts that it had just approved.
Judges who will rule fairly and dismiss a case over the prosecution's objection, are becoming too rare these days. After all, if the law were fair and treated both sides equally, wouldn't law enforcement be liable for stealing if they took items and didn´t return them? Wouldn't they be charged with vandalism for needlessly ruining items seized from the family?
Entrapment by estoppel rarely gets a case of this type dismissed. That is the bitter truth. One might ask oneself, if you abide by the law and seek guidance from government officials, and end up getting into legal trouble anyway, how can you feel safe that no task force is going to raid your home, that you will not be accused of crimes you did not commit, and your property and good name will be safe?
There is a lot of room to improve in our legal system, and holding law enforcement accountable for this type of behavior is one of the most pressing predicaments we are facing in California and all over America today.
If you find yourself in the Shattuck family's position or some similar trouble with law enforcement we want to hear from you here at the Tully-Weiss criminal law firm. As certified criminal law specialists we know exactly how to stand up to the outrageous acts of law enforcement gone rogue and the earlier in the criminal process we can call them on it, the better for your defense.