Illegal search: Charges against Eureka Springs couple are dismissed

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Drug charges against a Eureka Springs husband and wife have been dismissed after a judge agreed with a defense attorney that the arrests were based on an illegal search.

Prosecutors moved to dismissed charges against James and Rebecca Calahan and Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson signed an order to that effect on Nov. 15. Jackson’s order also states that a defense motion to suppress evidence in the case was granted.

The Cahalans were arrested on April 26 after a deputy with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to check on an abandoned vehicle.

Inside the vehicle, Deputy Austin Kennedy found a bill stating that it had been sold to Blake Cahalan, whose residence was listed as an address on County Road 241 in Eureka Springs. In a probable-cause affidavit, Kennedy writes that he went to the residence to speak with Blake Cahalan. He observed juvenile marijuana plants on the front porch and what appeared to equipment for the production of grain alcohol, Kennedy writes in the affidavit.

After a signed search warrant was obtained, the affidavit says, Kennedy and other deputies entered the residence. Inside, the officers found marijuana, marijuana plants, “marijuana-specific” plant food, smoking devices, paraphernalia for prepping and storing marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, an incubator and other equipment and supplies for growing mushrooms, digital scales, distilling equipment and supplies, several doses of LSD, a marijuana and mushroom grow ledger, several Mason jars containing grain alcohol, two handguns and four rifles.

Blake Cahalan’s parents, James and Rebecca Cahalan, each were arrested and charged with simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, manufacturing of a Schedule I or II controlled substance, two counts of possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance, manufacturing of a Schedule VI controlled substance and possession with purpose to deliver a Schedule VI controlled substance. James Cahalan also was charged with operating an illicit still and Rebecca Cahalan also was charged with a second count of manufacturing of a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

James and Rebecca Cahalan were released from jail on separate $25,000 bonds.

Blake Cahalan and his sister, Lacey Cahalan, also were arrested but were released after being issued misdemeanor citations for possession of a controlled substance.

On Oct. 5, Eureka Springs attorney Chris Flanagin filed identical motions on behalf of both James and Rebecca Cahalan, arguing that the evidence collected at their residence should be suppressed because Kennedy’s initial entry into the abandoned car was unlawful. Flanagin writes that the car was legally parked on private land, with the permission of the landowner.

“There was no consent, search warrant, search incidental to arrest, reasonable cause, exigent or emergency circumstance to justify the entry and illegal search of the vehicle,” Flanagin’s motion says.

Because Kennedy’s entry into the vehicle was illegal, the information that led to deputies’ subsequent entry and search of the Cahalans’ home was “fruit of the poisonous tree,” Flanagin argues.

In June, prosecutors filed a petition seeking the forfeiture of three rifles and two handguns seized during the search of the Cahalan’s residence. Court records indicate no ruling has been made on that petition.

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