Keith Domicz bought a grow light from an indoor-gardening store. Soon, five police detectives showed up at his New Jersey home, where they found more than 100 marijuana plants, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Today, Domicz, a 31-year-old roofer, sits in prison, at the center of a legal battle that pits police powers against privacy rights. The case, pending before the state Supreme Court, questions whether police detectives should be able to examine household utility records without a warrant, as they did in Domicz’s case. Higher-than-average electricity use can indicate the use of high-watt lights to grow marijuana. Requiring a warrant for utility records would hinder investigations, authorities say.
The case raises questions about whether police should be able to monitor what people buy, especially if the purchase is legal, and how many resources police should devote to marijuana investigations in the post-9/11 age. The appeals court found that “there is a legitimate expectation of privacy in electrical usage records.” Said Domicz: “I think my case will help a lot of people. It’s going to force police to change their investigative measures, which means they’ll have to follow the law.”