Monday May 15, 2017
Though there’s still some debate about the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana, the law explicitly states that it is illegal to drive under the influence of any mind-altering substance like cannabis or alcohol. Nevertheless, people often find themselves driving stoned or transporting cannabis. Should someone get stopped by the police during a time like this, it is imperative that the driver and all passengers remain calm and take the proper measures to ensure personal safety and maintain the legal upper-hand.
What to Do to Protect Yourself When Stopped by Police
Getting pulled over is unpleasant whether or not you’ve got weed on you, and the whole experience can really jar your thinking and cause you to use poor judgement. This is something cops will take advantage of to get you to admit to something you shouldn’t admit to – like telling them you’re high or giving them permission to search your vehicle. That’s why the most important thing you can do during a traffic stop is to remain calm. Don’t give them any reason to become aggressive with you or claim you were being non-compliant. Do as the officer says but only as is required by law.
That being said, there are only four things you should say to the police after being pulled over, and you should say them verbatim, in the proper order and only when needed.
Study them, practice them, remember them and share them with everyone you know. Here are four things you should say to police if you’re pulled over with weed.
“Am I free to go?”
The first thing you need to know is if you’re being detained. A police officer cannot detain anyone without reasonable suspicion that the person has been involved in a crime, and the officer will have to prove what the reasonable suspicion was later in court. If the officer has no reason to detain you, let him or her finish what they are doing (if they need to write you a citation, for example) then leave immediately.
“I do not consent to any searches”
A lot must happen for a cop to be able to legally conduct a search. Not only do they need a warrant issued by a judge (implying a crime has been suspected for an extended period of time – not a routine traffic stop), but the warrant itself must be very specific, outlining exactly what they expect to find and where. But when you consent to a search, none of this matters. You are throwing away legal protection from searches and whatever evidence they find can be used against you. If you decline searches and the police search anyway, stand aside and let them do their thing – do not resist! Whether they find something or not, their search can be contested in court but if you resist the search, they can use that against you, too!
“I choose to remain silent”
As unnecessary as this one may sound, the Supreme Court has ruled that, in order for you to exercise your Fifth Amendment rights, you have to first express your desire to. If you state that you wish to remain silent, the cops can still interrogate you but you do not have to answer them. If you do speak up after stating that you wish to remain silent, you have to speak up and say it all over again to get out of the conversation a second time.
“I want a lawyer”
This statement is the kicker. Whether or not you have – or can even afford – a lawyer, you should tell the police that you want a lawyer before anything further happens. It is illegal for the police to continue interrogation without a lawyer present at this point and anything that happens after you’ve requested a lawyer can get thrown out in court. If you cannot afford a lawyer, request one on your court date and the state will provide one for you.
Additional Things to Consider
More than 90 percent of adults use cell phones, most of which include cameras that can record video. Proving a case in court is much easier when there is actual video evidence to support a claim (whether involving a fender-bender or wrongful police brutality) so set your camera up on the dash or in the passenger’s seat from the get-go, and don’t be afraid to call to bystanders to record the incident, too. Though there is likely to be a dash-cam on the police vehicle recording the interaction, the more evidence you can gather to support your case, the better.
We also want to reiterate the importance of staying calm and moving slowly. Police brutality is an unfortunate, but very real problem for many members of society. Police officers are trained to react quickly to potential threats which could be something as simple as reaching for an ID or acting “suspicious.”
While we certainly hope your interaction with the police does not end in arrest or legal action, the most important thing to get through first is to come out alive. Avoid sudden movements, do not argue and comply with the officer as much as necessary to keep you safe, all the while collecting evidence to protect yourself in court.
One more thing to consider is where you store your cannabis stash inside the vehicle. Using smell-proof cases that hide odors is a great way to stay discreet. Also, storing your cannabis in the trunk or anywhere out of the driver’s reach is a great way to avoid an open container violation.
People Most likely to be Hassled by Police
We hate to say it, but profiling is definitely a reality among law enforcement. While some people may get off with no more than a warning and a reminder to turn on their headlights at 2:00 am, others could be interrogated, intimidated and otherwise mistreated by police during their encounter which unfortunately leads to an increased likelihood of arrest as well.
Race plays the largest role in drug-related arrest discrepancies. For example, while black and white people use cannabis at roughly the same rate, black people are almost four times more likely (pdf) to be arrested for marijuana-related charges. Car and/or body modifications also affect arrest rates as does a poor attitude so stay cool, calm and collected at all times.
We hope you never get stopped by the police, but if you do, we hope it’s a smooth encounter resulting in nothing more than a simple citation or warning. However, should the situation take a nasty turn while you have cannabis in the car, it is vital that you stay calm and follow protocol. Doing so could save you from hefty fines – or worse – while stopping bully cops from getting their way.
Do you have any advice about getting pulled over with weed? Share it with us in the comment section below.