Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hassled By The Man - And How To Avoid It.

A lot of people end up in trouble with the Police, when trouble could be clearly avoided.

Police work can be pretty boring.  You spend hours sitting in a patrol car, either waiting for calls, or handing out traffic citations.  And while you do end up "catching the bad guys" once in a while, a lot of arrests are for, well, chickenshit kind of things.

In the case of the latter, it is almost like a comedy of errors for the defendants in these cases - their actions are almost comical, as if they wanted to get caught, when a few simple steps could have kept them out of trouble, forever.

If you are smart, you don't end up getting arrested - or at least not very often.   If you are stupid, well, they nail you every time.   Our legal system - like our lottery system - acts as a stupidity tax.   There are not a lot of really bright people in jail.   If they are there, it is an anomaly.

Let's take for example, a typical traffic stop.   Two young men are going into town to get a bite to eat.   They are smoking pot in the car, which is filling up with smoke like a scene from Cheech and Chong.  They also have a brake light out, which is kind of odd, considering how much money and time they spent putting bling rims on the car, waxing it, and fitting it with things like tinted windows (illegal) and tinted headlights (illegal).

A cop sees them drive by and pulls in behind.  He can smell the marijuana smoke coming from the car.   And he can see that a brake light is out.   He has all the "probable cause" from Terry v. Ohio to stop the car.

And by the way, if you think Terry v. Ohio is a bunch of bullshit, bear in mind that in other countries, police don't need "probable cause" to pull you over at all.   In America, any evidence seized in a stop where there is no probable cause can be thrown out at trial.

So he pulls over the car.   The driver is driving on a suspended license.   This is an arrestable offense.   Why he didn't let his friend, who has a valid license, drive, is beyond me.   So he is asked to step out of the car.

Now, at this point, the Police have the right to do two things.   First, they can pat you down for weapons, for their own protection, and they can go through your pockets - a search subsequent to arrest.   You'll have to empty your pockets when you get to jail anyway.  So they find a small amount of weed on our friend, which he has in his pocket.  Even in Georgia, this is a pretty trivial offense, but the offenses are starting to stack up.

Second, the Police can look inside the car, to see if there is anything in plain view.   Again, this is for their own protection, and also because you have no expectation of privacy if you leave a bong sitting out on the dashboard.

The police see a "roach" in the ashtray and take this as evidence, too.   They may be able to add "impaired driving" to the list of offenses.

They then ask the driver if it is OK if they search the car.   "We can get this over with a lot quicker, if you'll just let us search the car, and then you can be on your way!"  they say.   Yes, the Police can lie to you and not advise you that you are not required to consent to a search.   The only rights that are required to advise you of, are your Miranda Rights and even then, only when you are officially under arrest.   Moreover, there are situations where evidence obtained after a failure to read Miranda Rights has been accepted in court, so don't think sloppy Police work is going to get you off the hook.

Stupidly, the suspect agrees to the search.   The police go through the glove box, open up the trunk, and even look under the back seat cushion.  They take all the shit out of the car and stack it up by the side of the road - and yea, I see this on I-95 all the time.

And Bingo, they find an ounce of weed and maybe some Ecstasy in the car.  What started as a broken brake light traffic stop has escalated into a number of charges, some of them felonies.  These boys are going to jail for a while, on what started out as a chickenshit traffic offense.

It begs the question, why are criminals so stupid?   Well, impairment with drugs is one problem, to be sure.   Stoners make easy targets for the Police as they do typical stupid stoner tricks without thinking too much of the consequences.   My brother was continually being "hassled by the man" even though he was a pretty smart guy, simply because his brain was fogged by drugs.   Mental health issues don't help, either.

How could these two young men have avoided a lengthy jail sentence?   Well, they could make sure their brake lights work, of course.   They also could have avoided doing dumb things like driving on a suspended license - and not doing the dumb things that caused their license to be suspended in the first place (getting a ticket and then simply not paying the fine - it happens a lot in our area).    It is funny, people will go into hock for a set of bling rims, but not pay their traffic fines.   Again, you don't see a lot of smart criminals out there - or at least smart criminals getting caught.

And of course, it goes without saying that they could have decided not to smoke pot while driving, but instead waited until they got to their destination or someplace private.   And they could have decided not to store drugs in their car where they are far more likely to be found.  They also could have decided not to consent to the search of the car - although in this case, since they were arrested, it is probable the car would have been impounded and a search warrant obtained anyway.

But of course, they could have decided not to do drugs at all.   But it is a funny thing, when you talk to a drug user, that option is simply not on the table.   Drug users are convinced that not only what they are doing is "right" but that there are no other options, but to do drugs.   It is not necessarily that they are addicted to drugs (such as marijuana) but that they enjoy them and don't want to stop and don't see why they should have to.

But it is a choice, of course.   And many people choose to smoke pot and then complain when their life goes off the rails.   Their personal problems in life, they believe, are not related to their drug use.   And their legal problems, are not related to their drug use.   But often, stoners get into legal problems, simply because they don't think things through and just do one stupid thing after another which makes it much easier for the Police to catch them.

And while our boys in the bling-mobile might not be "violent offenders" and not hurting others, other drug users do hurt people, or our society at large - and they do eventually get caught.

Take Joe (not his real name) who lives with his gypsy-like family and does Crystal Meth.   Joe is in his mid-20's and doesn't see a problem with doing meth, nor do other members of his family.  The family is all involved in one sort of criminal enterprise or another - stealing from their employers (for the brief times they actually hold jobs), dealing drugs, or just stealing shit from the neighbors.

Joe likes to break into houses, and stupidly, he breaks into nearly every house within walking distance of his own home, including (and especially) homes of his friends.   It is not long before the Police are aware that there is a burglar in the area.   Twelve break-ins are reported and they are, of course, by the same person.

But criminals are not very bright.   Joe keeps pressing his luck, even though the burglaries are reported in the paper, and he is caught on a security camera, attempting to break into a neighbor's house.   Worse yet, he is caught inside of someone's home with their possessions on his person.   Joe is busted for felony burglary and attempted burglary.

Joe might have gotten away with one burglary.   Maybe two or three.  Maybe the first six or seven, even.   But he burglarized a dozen homes, including some he burglarized twice (hence his photo on a security camera).   The Joes of the worlds make it easy for the Police - they just keep going until they get caught.

And that is why I have no sympathy for the Joes of the world.   You hear the sob stories from some Liberal about how some jerk is in jail for stealing shit and smoking dope.  "He's a non-violent offender!" they say, and even Republicans are letting such people out of jail these days.   But you have to bear in mind that when someone is caught and convicted for one crime, that is simply because that was the only crime he was caught and convicted for.   That does not mean he is innocent of other crimes.

Our pal Joe is going to jail for one "non-violent offense" of burglary.   However, he is guilty as sin of at least a dozen of such offenses.   And non-violent or not, he made an entire neighborhood feel unsafe and uneasy - and sold a lot of alarm and security systems in the process.   He and his entire gypsy family are basically a crime wave in and of themselves.   Frankly, I would just hang them all from a neighboring oak tree and be done with it - and feel no remorse as they twist in the wind.   They have declared war on society, why shouldn't society declare war back?

Well, perhaps that is a bit harsh.   But Joe's criminal family will continue to operate for some time, and Joe will cost the taxpayers money as he rots in jail - a jail nicer than 99% of the world's jails.   And when he gets out, well, he will continue to do much of the same - doing drugs and stealing shit, because now with a felony conviction, he can't get a job.

Choices.   And making the wrong choices these days can be devastating.   Signing up $100,000 in student loans to get a liberal arts degree, or deciding on a life of drug use (or am I being redundant here?).  Blowing your money on bling rims, but not paying your traffic fines.   Deciding that drug use is more important than living a fulfilling life.   It is all up to you.

I made a lot of poor choices when I was a youth.   I guess the reason why I am not in Joe's shoes, is that I wasn't so utterly stupid.   That, and I made better choices in life as I got older.   By the time I was Joe's age, I decided that the drug thing was a dead-end, and that it was dragging down my life.   It gets down to choices, I guess.  Either I was "lucky" to make the right choice, smart enough to make the right choice, or just had the willpower or ethos to make the right choice.