Drug Dealing in Building Creates Nuisance But Destruction of Building Not Justified
Description The Maryland high court reversed lower courts that approved the destruction of a building that was used for drug dealing. Drug dealing is a nuisance that may be enjoined, but it is the activity that is a nuisance, not the building itself, so the courts exceeded their authority in ordering the building to be destroyed.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Nuisance; Drugs; Equitable Relief; Destruction of Property
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Becker owns a building in a residential area of Baltimore. He rented the building to Holmes, who ran a grocery store on the first floor and lived on the second floor. The state attorney filed a complaint for the abatement of a nuisance in connection with the property, contending that Becker and Holmes allowed the property to be used for significant drug dealing. The trial court found the property to be a nuisance, ordered Holmes to vacate, and ordered Becker to raze the building, even though there was no evidence that he was aware of the drug activity. Becker appealed, but the circuit court affirmed. Becker appealed again.
Decision Reversed. The abatement of nuisances is a well-established exercise of governmental authority. The legislature may declare what shall be deemed nuisances and provide for their suppression. The Drug Nuisance Abatement statute, which gave the courts the authority to order equitable relief, did not authorize the courts to order destruction of buildings unless the buildings themselves were a nuisance. The unlawful activity here came from the use of the building, not the fact of its existence. The court should have granted an injunction against the use of the building for the illegal purposes that created the nuisance.
Citation Becker v. State, - A.2d - (2001 WL 204722, Ct. App., Mary., 2001)

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