Hopefully those interactions were favorable, and if not, hopefully you have been able to rebuild your life. Consuming marijuana is not harmful, but getting caught consuming marijuana could ruin your life. That’s why it’s so important to know what tactics and tricks cops use to try to bust you for marijuana, and how to deal with them. I read an article on Raw Story recently that discussed the four things cops do to bust you when you’re driving, and I had some to add on. If you have anything that you would like to add, please do in the comments section so that others can learn from your knowledge and experience.
Fishing For Felonies
I went to a college that has a large criminal justice program. There used to be a police academy at the college I attended, but it has since been relocated. As such, I talked to a lot of police officers in college that were instructors, and to even more criminal justice majors that were studying to become officers. I was a public policy major with a legal studies minor, so some of our credit requirements overlapped. There was a term that one of the professors said in class one day that has always stuck with me – ‘fishing for felonies.’
We have probably all seen this in action before. Cops are driving around looking for any reason to pull someone over. The most common thing is that someone has a light out, but I was once pulled over because the officer said my light was ‘dim’ which was a very subjective thing. I am happy to say that I survived that interaction because I didn’t have any marijuana on me at the time, but I checked my light as the officer pulled away and it was the same brightness it had always been since the day I bought the vehicle. Fishing for felonies is a tactic that virtually every officer uses, especially in poorer neighborhoods and at night time. Before you drive make sure all of your stuff is in working order, and if you get pulled over for a ‘dim’ light, respectfully explain to the officer that you check your vehicle often, and that you will definitely take a look when you get to your destination.
The Casual Conversation Tactic
Once a cop has you pulled over, they approach your vehicle asking for your license and registration. Almost everything after that is them fishing for information. Some officers are very direct in their line of questioning, others take the friendlier approach. Either way, know that anything that you say could potentially be your undoing. Only tell officers what they need to no in as short of answers as possible. Don’t be rude, just politely answer their questions that pertain to the traffic stop, and only their questions that pertain to the traffic stop. Realize that cops have an unfair advantage during these interactions, and if you are uncooperative with them they will leverage that advantage very quickly. With that being said, you don’t have to answer any questions that don’t pertain to the stop, and you have every right to remind them that you were being pulled over for ‘X’ and that you are cooperating with that and want to know what the outcome is for the alleged infraction. The moral of the story is don’t say too much. The phrase ‘loose lips sink ships’ is very applicable when talking to an officer.
The Personal Search
I watch a lot of law enforcement television shows, and I hear them say just about every episode, ‘Let me search you for both of our safety.’ That is the most common phrase I hear on Cops and other law enforcement reality shows. I have never been told that by a cop, but I always envisioned that if I was told that by a cop I would reply with ‘How is your or my safety in danger in any way? I have not risked your safety or mine, nor do I intend to do so. No you cannot search me.’ This is applicable during a traffic stop and during a pedestrian stop. Below is more about this topic, via the Raw Story article I linked to earlier:
Your right to refuse a search is expressly noted in the Fourth Amendment, which guards against “unreasonable searches and seizures” by the state. As with refusing to answer a nosy officer’s questions, you are legally within your rights to say no to a physical search unless the officer has a warrant.
“If the police say they have a search warrant, ask to see it. If they don’t, say ‘I do not consent to this search,'” advises the New York City Civil Liberties Union website. An officer may still illegally search you even if you say no, but at least you’ll protect your rights if you have to go to court.
The Vehicle Search
I have been the victim of unnecessary police vehicle searches, and been on the cusp of searches many times. Only one of them involved a K-9 unit, all the rest of the searches were illegal. Multiple times I have been pulled over, the cop asked to search my car, and I said no. Each time the officer said the same thing, ‘I will request a K-9 unit, they will alert that there is something in your vehicle, and I will search it anyway so you might as well let me search now.’ I responded each time with ‘So let me get this straight. Even before you have requested a K-9 unit you have already determined that it is going to alert to my vehicle? Is that the normal protocol for an unbiased K-9 search that is admissible in a court of law? You seem to be certain that this is OK, and that you are willing to jump through the hoops to do it, so how about we go that route instead of me letting you tear my car apart for something that you think is there, but really isn’t there. Can I call my attorney?’
That has worked every time except once, which the cop was hellbent on searching my car, which ended up returning nothing except some empty suitcases in my trunk. After telling that cop he couldn’t search my car and to call the K-9, he tried the tactic of ‘Well the K-9 unit is far away, and I don’t think that you want to sit here in your car for a long time further delaying your plans for the evening. You should just let me search your car.’ To which I replied, ‘So by your own admission, you will be detaining me for an unreasonable amount of time waiting for the K-9 unit to get here so you can have them walk around my car to establish just cause for the search. Can you detain someone for an unreasonable amount of time prior to establishing just cause? Because that doesn’t seem legal to me.’ That was good enough to get the cop to let me go, but only temporarily. I don’t know how fast the K-9 cop drove, but I was pulled over for a second time farther down the freeway by the original cop, this time for having ‘a taillight that must have temporarily went out’ according to the officer. By then the K-9 was there, walked around my car, freaked out like I had a bale of marijuana in my car, which led to the search, which led to them finding nothing, which led to the officer telling me that if he ever saw my car on that stretch of freeway again, he would pull me over each and every time.
Different cops will go to different lengths to search your vehicle. Some cops are more than willing to bend and even break the rules because they feel that the ends justify the means. You do not have to let a cop search your car, so don’t do it. Make them jump through every single hoop that you can, all the while pointing out that it’s BECAUSE you don’t have anything to hide that you don’t feel consenting to a search is necessary. It doesn’t mean that the cops won’t end up searching your car anyways, but again, at least your rights are protected.
Good Cop, Bad Cop, And ‘What Your Friend Said’
I was once pulled out of my car, put in the back of a squad car and watched the same thing happen to one of my best friends who was riding in my passenger seat. The officer that pulled us over didn’t like that we weren’t doing what he wanted (although we were doing what was legally required of us), so he called for back up and they separated us for questioning. This is a very standard tactic of police. They do the classic ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine, going back and forth from one suspect to the other. The cops flat out lied to me and said ‘we talked to your passenger, and he said that the marijuana is yours, you bought it, you planned on selling it, and that he had nothing to do with it.’ I knew for a fact that my friend would never say such a thing, especially considering that the marijuana in the car was actually neither of ours. In Oregon possession of a small amount of marijuana was decriminalized at the time, so when the dust settled all we received were possession tickets. But after we were free to go we asked each other what the officers said, and found out that the officers had said the same thing to both of us, that we each narced on each other. That of course was not the case. I asked about this to my attorney that I hired after the fact for a different case, and he said that an officer flat out lying is OK if it’s during the course of an investigation. Moral of this story, don’t say anything. My Constitutional Law professor always said ‘100% of people have the right to remain silent, only 2% flex that right.’ Be part of the 2%!
Searching Your Home
I have a friend that was pulled over and had stuff on him. For whatever reason, he allowed the cops to search his car, and then did something even worse – gave consent for the cops to search his home while he was being booked at the police station. I think you can assume how that story ended. Now he’s a felon, his life is a shell of what it once was, and he now gets to tell people his sad story and that people should never, ever give the cops consent to let them search their homes. If a cop does not have a warrant, never, ever let them search your home. They will bark, threaten, beg, and just about every other thing they can think of to get you to let them in the door. They will say they just want to come in to talk, but don’t believe them. The second they are passed that doorway it’s game over. Remember this – if they don’t have a warrant, they cannot search your home, so don’t let them. Demand to see the warrant and short of seeing it, don’t allow cops in your home. I once let the cops sit in front of my house for two hours before they went away, and I didn’t even have anything in my house anymore. I consumed all of it before they arrived, which was what prompted the call for them to come to my house in the first place. They banged on my door and rang my doorbell like it was the end of the world, but all I did was shout through the door that if they have a warrant, show it to me through the window and if not, feel free to do whatever they wanted to for however long they wanted to do it, but I was not opening my door.
Fake Drug Inspection Checkpoints
Drug inspection checkpoints are not as common the West Coast as other parts of America, but I have driven through one once. There is a lot involve with it, so rather than put it all here, I’ll point you to a lengthy article I wrote about my experience. I strongly urge you to read it. Scary stuff, with a very, very small margin of error allowed before your life is turned upside down.
These tips are based off of my own experience, and in no way substitute for legal advice. Always consult with a licensed attorney for legal matters. With that being said, an educated person can do a lot to protect their own rights, so make sure to study, to learn from others, and to protect your rights. The only useless rights are the ones that you forfeit intentionally or unintentionally!