Montana District Court Judge Dan Boucher has dismissed charges alleging a Michigan woman was found in Havre transporting marijuana on Amtrak.
The judge said law enforcement officers exceeded their bounds in their search of the woman’s sleeper car and luggage.
Jenee Ellan Gregor of Howell, Mich., born in 1988, was charged with possession of drugs with intent to distribute, carrying drugs on a train and possession of property subject to forfeiture after Tri-Agency Task Force agents said a search discovered more than 17 ½ pounds — of marijuana and $4,136 in cash potentially obtained illegally.
In granting the defense motion to dismiss charges, Boucher said the information leading to the investigation — a tip from an Amtrak employee who suspected Gregor might be carrying drugs — did not justify the investigation or the search.
Jeremy Yellin, Gregor’s attorney, said this morning that he and his client are pleased with the dismissal.
“I’m very happy that the Constitution and individual rights to be free from unlawful and illegal searches and seizures carried the day, ” he said. “In this day and age, the ends justify the means way too much. Fortunately in this case this didn’t happen in the end. ”
A call requesting comment from the Hill County attorney was not returned by deadline this morning.
According to court documents, the task force agent in charge of the investigation believed that Gregor’s demeanor and answers to questions Oct. 31 justified further investigation. When she refused to permit a search of her room, the drug dog Dewey was brought in and indicated narcotics were present.
The agent said he determined that, because the train was about to leave, and he did not have time to request a search warrant before its departure, a warrantless search had to be made to prevent destruction of evidence.
Boucher said — noting that the agent testified during the motion hearing that he did not have sufficient cause to request a warrant before questioning Gregor — that law enforcement did not have sufficient suspicion to stop and question Gregor to begin with.
He said the answers Gregor gave did not give grounds for further investigation, and that the actions of Dewey were out of the bounds of the law and also did not give grounds for the further search.
The dog was brought in for an “exterior sniff” of the room, but entered the room. Boucher noted that after Dewey tipped over Gregor’s purse and pulled at the mattresses of the bed in her sleeper compartment, no contraband was found. A search of her luggage was not justified, he said.