Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, November 15, 2004

Home & Garden

In U.S. v. Pineiro, No. 03-1473 (Nov. 15, 2004), the Court (Hull, Marcus, Hancock b.d.) affirmed a conviction and sentence of a defendant convicted of maintaining a place for purpose of manufacturing and distrbuting marihuana. The Court rejected the argument that marihuana plants evidence should have been suppressed because Pineiro did not consent to a search of a house at which marihuana plants were found. Based on Pineiro's "cooperation" with the agents who searched the house, the Court found the requisite consent. The Court also found no reason to suppress Pineiro's inculpatory statements, finding that hewas informed of his Miranda rights before he made the statements. The Court also rejected a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Pineiro contended that the marihuana plants were left over from the prior owner, from whom he had just purchased the house a few weeks before. The Court pointed out that material consistent with the equipment and material used in marihuana grow houses was found in the house. The Court also noted that a photograph of Pineiro in the house was recovered, and neighbors reported a smell of marihuana, and lights on all day and all night. In view of this evidence, the jury was free to reject Pineiro's defense that the material was left over from a prior owner. Recognizing that a conspiracy conviction presented a "closer question," the Court noted that the government presented evidence of Pineiro's close personal relationship with his cousin, who was involved in marihuana trafficking. Further, Pineiro's vehicle was seen parked at the marihuana grow house at thetime when it was owned by his cousin. The Court further noted "substantial similarities" between a grow house operated by the cousin and another grow houseat which Pineiro was arrested. This evidence sufficed to give rise to a jury's guilty verdict beyond a reasonable doubt.