Source: New Haven Register
Pubdate: 22 Aug 1998
Author: Michelle Tuccitto


SEYMOUR - The use of an infrared camera by police in order to snare two
alleged marijuana growers did not violate the suspects' constitutional
rights, according to a Superior Court judge's ruling this week.

In February 1996, Seymour police arrested Daniel Mordowanec, then 39, of 29
French St. and his brother, Michael Mordowanec, then 42, of 15 Wooster St.
after searching their Main Street business, L&M Home Improvement.

Police used a ''thermal imaging'' camera that detected high heat levels on
the second floor of the business. Police raided the building and allegedly
found numerous marijuana plants thriving under heat lamps.

''They tried to say that we conducted an illegal search and that we did
something improperly,'' said Police Chief Michael Metzler, who learned of
the ruling late Thursday. ''With the judge's ruling, the criminal case can
now go forward.''

In April 1996, the suspects moved to suppress all evidence of the search of
their business, claiming that their rights under the Fourth Amendment had
been violated. The amendment protects citizens against searches without
probable cause.

There was a court hearing June 12, and Judge Jack Grogins issued his
decision Wednesday. He denied the motion to suppress all evidence seized in
the police search. The ruling means the case will go to trial.

In his ruling, Grogins agreed with past cases that have determined ''the
use of a thermal imaging device does not constitute a search'' and ''the
warrantless use of the thermal imager was not unconstitutional.''

''Thermal imagery is of such low resolution as to render it incapable of
revealing the intimacy of detail and activity protected by the Fourth
Amendment,'' he wrote. ''Heat emission is information that is neither
sensitive nor personal, nor does it reveal the specific activities within a

The suspects' attorney, Ira Grudberg of the New Haven law firm of Jacobs,
Grudberg, Belt & Dow, said he believes the judge was wrong.

''He never addressed some crucial points,'' said Grudberg.

For example, Grudberg said some information provided by an anonymous
tipster was incorrect.

Grudberg can't appeal the judge's ruling, but he said if his clients are
convicted, he'd make an issue of such information in a post-trial appeal.

In 1996, police received an anonymous call from a man who claims to have
spotted marijuana plants being grown on the 151 Main St. business' second
floor, according to court documents.

Police did an external inspection of the heat emanating from the building
with the thermal imaging device. The device showed significantly higher
heat levels on the second floor from heat lamps, court records say.

Police then did a search and allegedly found a room on the second floor
containing 19 marijuana plants, some more than 6 feet tall, heat lamps to
grow the plants and packaging materials for the drugs.

They charged the brothers with operating a drug factory, cultivation of
marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to sell and possession of
drug paraphernalia. 

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Checked-by: Mike Gogulski