How do police investigate grow houses?

Being involved with a cannabis farm, such as a grow house, can lead to serious criminal charges. If you have been arrested, charged or are worried about a possible prosecution, then it is important to understand exactly how the police handle these matters, the potential charges and your legal options.

Here, we discuss what a grow house is, how the police find grow houses, what the charges are for having a grow house and what to do if you are arrested for operating a grow house, including how our expert criminal defence solicitors can support you.

What is classed as a grow house?

The term ‘grow house’ refers to a property that is primarily used for growing cannabis. This can be a residential or commercial property and will often contain extensive equipment to provide water, food and light, as well as to remove the characteristic smell of cannabis plants. It is sometimes also referred to as a ‘grow op’.

How do police find grow houses?

There are various tactics the police can use to identify grow houses. They are likely to look at a number of different factors in order to decide to investigate a particular house, but just one of these signs could be enough to trigger further investigation.

One of the most common indicators that police look at is where a property has unusually high electricity usage as cannabis growing equipment tends to use a lot of electricity. High water usage can also suggest a grow house due to the large amount of water needed for cannabis cultivation.

A well-known indicator of a grow house is the smell from the cannabis itself. Most grow houses will have measures in place to avoid the smell reaching the outside, but this is not always fully effective.

Blacked out windows, lots of condensation on windows, noise from fans and snow melting more quickly on the roof than surrounding properties can all also be signs of a grow house.

A more sophisticated tactic police can adopt is using infrared cameras to pick out properties that are significantly warmer than those surrounding them. This different in temperature can be caused by the grow lights used for cannabis plants.

Grow houses can also be uncovered where a fire breaks out at the property. Cannabis farms can be at higher risk of fire due to electrical faults in the wiring used to power growing equipment, as well as where the operators have bypassed electric and gas meters.

Ultimately, however, one of the most common ways in which the police find grow houses is following tip-offs from the public or confidential informants.

What are the charges for having a grow house?

There are various criminal offences you could be charged with in connection with a grow house. These include cultivation of cannabis and production of a controlled drug. You could also potentially find yourself facing a conspiracy charge if you worked with others to operate the grow house.

You can potentially face up to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine for cultivation of cannabis. It is also likely that you would face action under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) to recover any profits you made from the grow house.

What do I do after the police find my grow house?

If the police have found a grow house you were involved with and have yet to interviewed or charged you, then you may want to consider proactively coming forward to speak to them. Accepting responsibility at an early stage could potentially reduce any sentence you ultimately receive. However, you should always take legal advice before speaking to the police.

If you have been arrested, charged or released under investigation, it is essential to have the very best legal representation. Whether you are ultimately charged or prosecuted and, if prosecuted, what sentence you receive, can all vary significantly based on the circumstances. Having the best possible legal advice and representation can make a huge difference to the outcome of your case.

Factors that would be looked at if you were to be sentenced include your role in running the grow house (your ‘culpability’) and the harm caused (or that could have been caused) by the grow house. A key part of your defence would likely rely on establishing the limits of your role and/or the harm/likely harm from the operation. Again, this is why having the best possible criminal defence is so important.

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