Ladder Search

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A State Patrol trooper did not act illegally when he used a ladder to try to peer into a garage of a Keith County man who later was convicted on drug charges.

That's the word Friday from a federal appeals court.

The court ruled in the case of Michael Gerard, who was arrested in 2002 after troopers found marijuana plants in his house and outbuildings.

The case began when troopers arrested two men suspected of stealing a car and found a credit card belonging to Gerard on one of them.

When troopers called Gerard's farmhouse, they said it sounded as though someone answered the phone but then immediately hung up.

After arriving at the farm, the trooper heard music coming from a locked garage and used a ladder to try to look into a vent on the building.

Moments before reaching the vent, the trooper smelled the aroma of raw marijuana coming from the garage.

He then got a search warrant and found the marijuana.

Gerard argued that the trooper had violated his right against unreasonable search and seizure in his home.

But the court said the garage was not part of Gerard's home.