Google Earth Helps Bust Illegal Marijuana Grows

, Written by RaeAnn Christensen, Posted: Tue, October 22 2013 at 6:14 PM, Updated: Tue, October 22 2013 at 6:17 PM

50-year-old Curtis Croft was arraigned last week in the Josephine County Circuit Court on charges of unlawful manufacture and sale of marijuana after police saw his grow on Google Earth.

"They're dealing with something that society is questioning if it should be illegal or not ," says attorney Justin Rosas.

The mugshot is of Croft in 2010 when he was booked on charges of assault.

His property is a registered medical marijuana grow site for five people, allowing him 30 plants, but court documents say he had 94.

The Rogue Area Drug Enforcement Team used Google Earth satellite images that led them to do a conventional flyover.

Rosas says "police officers are realizing that Google Earth is a valuable technology for them."

Authorities got a search warrant and seized 94 plants from his home.

"They still have to go there and get the evidence in a way that is constitutional," says Rosas.

Rosas says using Google Earth is becoming a common practice.

He says "local law enforcement and national law enforcement are going to be using Google Earth more not only for drug busts but for other things."

Which Rosas says is bringing up a lot of questions about whether using Google Earth or surveillance type images are appropriate with search and seizure rights.

He says "the court has come along and they have said that Google Earth is public imaging and there were cases about helicopters that was ruled to be okay. People disagree with those rulings, but it was ruled to be okay."

This case is the second recent bust that used Google Earth images.

Last month, a Merlin area grower, Jonathan Williams was indicted on charges that he sold marijuana unlawfully.

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RaeAnn Christensen

NBC 5 News Reporter and Weather Forecaster RaeAnn Christensen earned a Bachelors degree from Weber State University, majoring in Communications and Broadcast Journalism.

RaeAnn started her career as a Producer for two local stations where she grew up in Utah. Working for the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City, she won local awards for producing, and also became an Emmy award winning producer.

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