Updated: July 16, 2014 2:11AM
After months of consideration, Will County Circuit Court Judge Bennett Braun has upheld a search warrant at a Shorewood woman’s home that led to charges of misdemeanor marijuana possession.
Angela Kirking, 46, of Shorewood, was charged with possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia on Sept. 17 after a search of her home.
Her attorney, Jeff Tomczak, the former Will County State’s attorney and the county’s former chief narcotics prosecutor, wanted the case thrown out because of how the warrant was obtained.
According to court records, the Drug Enforcement Agency began its investigation of Kirking after an agent saw her shopping at the Midwest Hydroganics indoor gardening store in Crest Hill.
The agent suggested in the search warrant complaint that a stakeout at the store can turn up customers suspected of growing marijuana.
The warrant also was based on agents finding what appeared to be marijuana stems in Kirking’s trash and having a higher electric bill than her neighbor’s.
Tomczak said that wasn’t enough evidence for the search warrant and stems are excluded in the definition of marijuana.
In his July 10 ruling, Braun said “the complaint for the search in this case describes wholly innocent conduct.” He wrote that Kirking’s presence at the store and her high electric bills are inconsequential.
But Braun added that a strong odor of marijuana was noticed in Kirking’s garbage bag and the plant stems tested positive for the presence of marijuana and a case for the search warrant rose above “mere suspicion.”
“Furthermore, it is not for this court to determine the wisdom of the use of surveillance and extensive law enforcement resources to generate arrests for possession of a pipe and small amounts of marijuana,” Braun wrote.
Store owner Joseph Vota said he was not aware the DEA was staking out his business but feels the federal government can spend its resources more wisely than harassing his customers.
Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union, agreed and questioned the use of such resources to enforce marijuana laws.
Tomczak said he is reviewing the court’s order and is considering an appeal.