No more drugs - what about charges?
February 9, 2005 10:55 AM   Subscribe

If police found a container that to them obviously contained drugs (but there were no drugs in it, except for maybe a small coating of dust in the case of cocaine, or a few flakes of marijuana), could they charge you with anything? (The container in this instance would be a baggie or a box, nothing that is explicity "drug paraphanalia.")
posted by agregoli to Law & Government (25 answers total)
 
Possibly - maybe not. It could make for probable cause for more intensive search & could very likely be the basis for seisure of car/property under forfeiture laws through which you get coerced into buying your own property back or losing it.
posted by Pressed Rat at 10:59 AM on February 9, 2005


i think legally there has to be a certain quantity. Generally speaking, if you can't get a hit or a bump out of it, I wouldn't think they'll bother, possibly depending on the state, and perhaps on the cop...
posted by hellbient at 11:04 AM on February 9, 2005


Interestingly, the DOJ says baggies are drug paraphernalia, for dealers.
posted by smackfu at 11:14 AM on February 9, 2005


Well, if they find even a residue, and they want to arrest you, they can and will use that as an excuse. It will give them probable cause for a search, as Pressed Rat says. A college roomie got arrested over a baggie with some marijuana dust in it, along with some "suspicious ash" in the ashtray.
posted by goatdog at 11:16 AM on February 9, 2005


Arrested is one thing, charged is another - I guess I'm just wondering what would happen in those situations, ultimately - if they search and find nothing else, I would imagine you'd be in the clear?

Just curious.
posted by agregoli at 11:19 AM on February 9, 2005


That depends on the laws in your locale, agregoli.
posted by mischief at 11:27 AM on February 9, 2005


Get a lawyer.
posted by normy at 11:28 AM on February 9, 2005


ultimately - if they search and find nothing else, I would imagine you'd be in the clear?

Possession of trace quantities of cocaine in NYS is a misdemeanor. Assuming "nothing else" is found in the search incident to the arrest the most likely outcome would be an ACD (adjournment contemplating dismissal) by the court as long as you have no priors.

Possession of a marihuana joint in NYS is a violation (less than a misdemeanor) so for a "few flakes" (or more even) many police officers would not arrest you. YMMV.
posted by mlis at 11:31 AM on February 9, 2005


If I was arrested, I'd certainly get a lawyer. But I'm not. This is just an idle question.
posted by agregoli at 11:32 AM on February 9, 2005


Well, they arrested him and he had to post bail. They impounded his car and he had to pay some crazy fee to get it back. They ended up not pressing charges, but he was out a few thousand because of it. Bad enough. (This was in Michigan.)
posted by goatdog at 11:34 AM on February 9, 2005


man, where can I get my hands on some "suspicious ash"?!

I was in jail once, and there were plenty of people in for possessing a roach, or thereabouts. I doesn't take much, apparently.
posted by hellbient at 11:40 AM on February 9, 2005


I agree with goatdog on this one. The bag in and of itself is probably not enough to convict you of anything, but it is more than enough probable cause for them to lock you up for at least a day or two, impound your car, search your home - and in the case of police searches, this involves tearing up floorboards, disconecting drain pipes, bashing in your drywall, etc. - require you to hire a lawyer, require many court appearances, and generally make your life hell and force you to pay lots and lots of money. As anyone who has dealt with cops on more than a crossing-guard level cna tell you, they have many ways of exacting penalties on you, especially if they feel like the criminal justice system can't or won't.

It also of course means that you will be entered into their database with a note saying "almost caught him with a kilo last time," so that anytime you have a cruiser behind you they will pull you over and every time they do pull you over they will search your car for an hour and a half.
posted by ChasFile at 11:44 AM on February 9, 2005


Basically, as everyone else has stated, almost everything is paraphanalia (I have a friend that was charged in Illinois because he had a scale in his backseat) and almost everything else gives them just cause to search. Conviction is much harder.

"Trace amounts" definitions are also weird, as it depends on how it is weighed. The weight of the bag can be included in the listed weight of the drugs in some locales.

Selective enforcement (at the officer's discretion under a certain amount) is risky. If you're pissing the cop off, he doesn't like the look of you, he's having a bad night or he needs to prove himself, you're looking at a huge pain in the ass, even without a conviction.

So, basically, baggies and bottles are cheap, man. Throw them out.
posted by Gucky at 12:23 PM on February 9, 2005


It also of course means that you will be entered into their database with a note saying "almost caught him with a kilo last time," so that anytime you have a cruiser behind you they will pull you over and every time they do pull you over they will search your car for an hour and a half.

In NYS police agencies are not allowed to provide information (via radio transmission, cell phone or other means) about prior traffic infractions, never mind criminal history information, to police officers seeking a vehicle registration check.

The database referred to above would require integration of the DMV computers with confidential, privileged criminal history information that can not be obtained without certain safeguards being met. Rest easy, no such database exists.
posted by mlis at 12:31 PM on February 9, 2005


How much to you trust the police? Evidence can be planted. That's just my take.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 12:53 PM on February 9, 2005


As a side note - a lawyer friend once sent me a federal statute stating that when authorities weigh confiscated drugs, in this case, LSD, they are authorized to include the medium. This was very bad news for some poor soul who, when caught with a single hit of acid, threw it in a 5-gallon jug of water. He was charged with having 5 gallons of LSD.
posted by grateful at 12:53 PM on February 9, 2005


Or even better, put a little 25 mg of LSD on a weight set and suddenly you have 200 lbs of acid. Interesting when it comes to prescription drugs, like Tylenol-3. Say (I forget the amount) there is 25 mg of codeine and 375 mg of Tylenol -- you get canned for 400 mg of a scheduled substance. Same goes if the codeine is 50 mg and 375 mg of Tylenol... still 400 mg of "codeine".

When it is hard to enforce drug laws, you either get more lax or more broad in your convictions. Lax does not get votes.
posted by geoff. at 1:15 PM on February 9, 2005


If it's cocaine, simply tell the cops that the container was used to store money. Most money contains trace amounts of coke.
posted by kindall at 1:34 PM on February 9, 2005


Although it may not hold up in court, trace amounts of any illegal substance give the police carte blanche to search, arrest, & book you. This can be quite costly to your time, money, and future.

It would be the discretion of the cop you are dealing with as are most encounters with cops. Ultimately everything would be sorted out in court, which is why you should never consent to being searched, be polite, don't resist arrest, keep your mouth shut ("anything you say can and will..."), ask if you are free to go, and know your rights.

IAMAL
posted by devilshgrin at 1:51 PM on February 9, 2005


The database referred to above would require integration of the DMV computers with confidential, privileged criminal history information that can not be obtained without certain safeguards being met. Rest easy, no such database exists.

wha?

after getting my DUI we were told *repeatedly* that if we got pulled over our DUI prior would most *definitely* come up and they'd whip out the ol' breathalyzer. prior traffic convictions for non-criminal offenses might not pull up, but DUIs do.

This is in California.
posted by fishfucker at 2:05 PM on February 9, 2005


In the USA, you can lose your home, your car, your kids, and your freedom for having a simple joint in your pocket. God forbid you also be caught with a gram scale or a couple Oxycontin pills.

The consequences are so insanely out of proportion to the actual (victimless) crime that I'm surprised anyone in the USA even bothers to use drugs. I like being high as much as the next guy, but by god it simply isn't worth jailtime.

If your need for drugs is so important that you are willing to risk taking on the US "justice" system, you need to seriously consider moving to another, less-insane country.

I find it a little ironic that US citizens are known to condemn Singapore's application of the death penalty to drug peddlars, and Saudi Arabia's habit of chopping off the hands of thieves. Log, eye, remove first.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:19 PM on February 9, 2005


If I were dealing with police, I would not say anything and talk with a lawyer.
posted by xammerboy at 2:46 PM on February 9, 2005


In NYS police agencies are not allowed to provide information (via radio transmission, cell phone or other means) about prior traffic infractions, never mind criminal history information, to police officers seeking a vehicle registration check.

The database referred to above would require integration of the DMV computers with confidential, privileged criminal history information that can not be obtained without certain safeguards being met. Rest easy, no such database exists.


Err, wrong. I was pulled over for not wearing a helmet (I was not charged) but the police checked not only my criminal history but my draft registration. These databases most certainly do exist.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 2:51 PM on February 9, 2005


Err, right. Not wearing a helmet while operating a motorcycle = Vehicle & Traffic Law violation. Not considered criminal history information. The police did not check your criminal history information. They checked your DMV driving record. The information should not have been given to the officers who had stopped you. Had you been more savvy about such issues you could have filed a complaint.

Misdemanor & Felony arrests (as well as the disposition of the arrest) are considered criminal history information. Such information is in a entirely different database that is not integrated with DMV. Furthermore there are practical and procedural limitations which prevent the police from obtaining such information during a traffic stop.
posted by mlis at 5:56 PM on February 9, 2005


Practically? They can probably charge you with possession if there is any trace amount on the container. I don't think there's any "minimum amount" for possession (though it's probably going to be a misdemeanor). They would probably not do a paraphernalia rap unless they were arguing dealers paraphernalia (the baggie thing); they might if it were a container designed to conceal or if it were a multi-use container (i.e. a dugout or a coke bottle with a spoon in the lid) with specific drug uses. Outside of trace amounts, I don't know that the "intent" of a container would be provable.
posted by nanojath at 12:03 AM on February 10, 2005


« Older Hiring great workers for a not-so-great task?   |   DIY Furniture Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.