"Are you high?" + "Yes" = Laughter and ?
November 26, 2009 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Why don't celebrities get in trouble for confessing to drug use on talk shows?

I've seen late night talk shows where the guest, and sometimes the host, confesses to using or handling drugs. This might happen in the context of an awkward moment or reminiscence. Sometimes it looks like the guest has used something before the interview (you know, when they come on glassy-eyed and don't know what's going on and the host has to cover for them). Why don't they get in trouble for this? It's confessing to a crime, right? Can police use that information to search their belongings or support a charge in court?
posted by ramenopres to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's not worth the police's time to arrest drug users who are not driving these days, especially cannabis users.. Twenty or thirty years ago, maybe it was different.
posted by Electrius at 12:26 PM on November 26, 2009


related, can coke rappers' lyrics be used as evidence to convict them of dealin' coke? hmmm i'd hate to be the defendant charged of murder if my name were, say, c-murder
posted by jcruelty at 12:36 PM on November 26, 2009


It isn't worth police time. The celebrity could claim it was all an act or a "white lie" told to increase his/her 'street cred'. Without actual evidence of a crime, trying to prosecute these folks would be an utter waste of time (and taxpayer money).
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 12:37 PM on November 26, 2009


1. the same reason why regular people usually don't get in trouble for confessing to drug use. Someone else can probably offer citations, but law enforcement has bigger fish to fry (dealers, especially at the wholesale level). police officers don't "go after" individual users (except maybe minors?) and most arrests of drug users occur because the user was caught in possession.

2. the legal definition of confession, as far as i know, is an acknowledgement of guilt from someone who has been accused/charged with a crime. saying "i did it" is not a confession, saying "i did it" to a police officer, in jail, is. talk shows aren't courts of law, they're essentially performances.

3. something like 50% of americans could be behind bars if the police went after every drug user ever. for this and many other reasons, they do not.
posted by acidic at 12:39 PM on November 26, 2009


They're shows whose purpose is to entertain. If the cops harass them, they could easily claim to be just kidding around for the benefit of the audience. It's going to take a little more than "I'm soo totally stoned right now" for a prosecutor to want to pick a battle with a celebrity-grade lawyer.
posted by juv3nal at 12:42 PM on November 26, 2009


The laws aren't generally against use*, per se, but possession and the intent to sell. Presumably, you don't actually have the dime bag on you when you're sitting on Oprah's couch, and search/seizure restrictions protect you everywhere else.

* except in the case of public drunkenness, impairment, DUI and so forth
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:15 PM on November 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


the legal definition of confession, as far as i know, is an acknowledgement of guilt from someone who has been accused/charged with a crime. saying "i did it" is not a confession, saying "i did it" to a police officer, in jail, is

Er, that just doesn't pass the smell test to me. If you are stopped for a routine traffic stop and somehow end up implicating yourself in a murder investigation while talking to the cop you can be damn sure that they will use what you said to the officer against you in court. They don't need to have already charged you with murder, or even suspected you of it. Or just in general if you are being questioned by an officer but have not yet been charged with or even suspected of committing any crime, a confession will most definitely result in you being arrested and charged and is admissible.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:26 PM on November 26, 2009


Sitting on Oprah's couch... how about if someone is jumping on Oprah's couch? That's a public display of impaired behavior. There's no shortage of celebrity mug shots on the web, actually. They don't get a pass all the time.
posted by woodway at 1:30 PM on November 26, 2009


Agreeing with above--generally not worth the police's time.
A confession on a talk show would still be a confession, it doesn't matter who you confess to. However, at least in my state (and I think in most states) there is a law requiring more than just a confession in order to obtain a conviction--there must be some kind of corroboration. So the police would have to find witnesses or some other evidence, establish exactly when and where the "crime" took place (if not an exact date, then at least a definitive time span and a specific county or venue)...all these things would be necessary to prosecute. Obviously no police force would have the money, motivation or manpower to do all this for a simple possession case. If the celebrity was confessing to being some huge drug kingpin who was running large amounts of drugs, however, this may not be the case...
posted by janerica at 1:33 PM on November 26, 2009


Similar AskMe from last year.
posted by porn in the woods at 1:49 PM on November 26, 2009


Thanks, porn in the woods! That's my question exactly. Funny that they don't have any tags in common.
posted by ramenopres at 3:50 PM on November 26, 2009


Counterpoint: The Marijuana Case Against Michael Phelps.
posted by user92371 at 6:31 PM on November 26, 2009


Actually, all of the above answers (including my quick scan of the link posted by porn in the woods) are wrong.

First, as hinted to by posters above it is not the use of controlled substances that is illegal but the possession of them. You might argue that by admitting use, one is also admitting possession, but...

Although it may vary from state to state, to prove a prima facie case, the case law in most states requires that the substance itself be moved into evidence and that there be expert testimony indicating that the substance is in fact what it purports to be. Failure to do so would likely result in an acquittal. If it did result in a conviction, failure to admit the actual substance into evidence is reversible error.

Bottom line -- since one cannot be convicted of violating a controlled substance law without the prosecution admitting the actual substance into evidence, the fact that celebrities admit use on television is irrelevant. The only caveat is that these admissions do give law enforcement plausible leads for future narcotics investigations. However, these are rarely, if ever, followed up on due to impracticality of doing so (both tactically and because of limited resources).
posted by Mr. X at 5:10 AM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


The laws aren't generally against use*, per se, but possession and the intent to sell.

Precisely. Unlike workers at for example Lockheed-Martin, passing a drug test isn't a requirement for guests on Oprah. And current laws forbid commerce and possesion, which is a key difference between now and the Prohibition Era, when only transport and sales were restricted.

And note that "high" is a word traditionally used by drinkers to describe their intoxication.
posted by Rash at 8:00 AM on November 27, 2009


And note that "high" is a word traditionally used by drinkers to describe their intoxication.
Really? I have never heard this. Interesting.
posted by ramenopres at 11:42 AM on November 27, 2009


I thought it quite common, back in the day. It's only for after just one drink, or maybe two.
posted by Rash at 4:27 PM on November 28, 2009


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