Officers Ordered By Judge To Return Seized Marijuana To Rightful Owner

Tacoma, WA – As ordered by a judge, Tacoma Police will have to return marijuana confiscated from Joseph Robertson during a traffic stop. If officers refuse to follow the directive within seven days, they will be found in contempt.

Contempt of court means the violator has behaved in a disorderly, contemptuous, or insolent manner toward the judge and is accused of impairing court authority or interrupting the due course of a trial or other judicial proceeding. Contempt can be punishable with a fine and jail time, assigned by the discretion of the court.

Municipal Court Judge Jack Emery repeated an order to police Thursday, demanding they return seized drugs to their rightful owner immediately or else face a criminal contempt charge. Emery reinforced the judgment to assistant city attorney John Walker, telling him to “appeal or comply,” or, the next time officers faced him in court, they would require legal representation. They have until a hearing on Thursday, May 2 to acquiesce.

Emery first ordered police to return the marijuana on February 28, but they refused. In May 2012, an officer pulled over Robertson for speeding and cited him for driving without a license and misdemeanor marijuana possession, reports the Seattle Times. The motorist had three small bags of weed, the equivalent of 40 grams (1.4 ounces).

Prosecutors later dismissed the drug charge in December after state voters decided to legalize small amounts marijuana for personal use. Robertson asked for his pot back, providing a medical marijuana permit, as he is a designated provider of the substance for a patient and legally allowed to carry limited amounts of weed (less than 680 grams or 24 ounces).

Emery agreed that Robertson was lawfully carrying the pot and ordered the city to give it back. However, the pot is in the possession of the Pierce County sheriff’s department, which operates the property room for seized evidence. Deputies there refuse to return the illicit evidence directly to Robertson because of a jurisdictional conflict as under federal law possession of marijuana is still a crime. Sheriff spokesman Ed Troyer says, “It’s Tacoma’s case. If they want it, they can come and get it,” and determine the best way to return it in compliance.

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