Drug arrest and release- what's next?
June 30, 2007 10:28 AM   Subscribe

My female friend's car was pulled over yesterday, and marijuana was found. They released her with some conditions. She is getting a lawyer, but we are wondering if what occurred is common, and where she should go from here.

She was pulled over for speeding in a Texas town, and the cop smelled the notorious smell of the green. They of course searched the car, and found a small amount. She was arrested, handcuffed, etc. She then informed them that it was her whole family's car, and the person who was driving it last must have put it in the car. She said she had no idea that it was there. After many tears and all that, they believed her, and released her. They told her that within a week, she must confess, bring the guilty party in to confess, or bring them the name of/ information on a dealer. Either way she has to go into the station. She told her father, and they are going to speak to a lawyer ASAP. She is justifiably scared, as she is off to grad school in the fall for the next three years and a drug conviction would obviously hurt her very bright future. My feeling is that if they released her, they are not that interested in ruining her life or anything. Has anyone heard of this occurring? They will talk to the lawyer about the legality of his actions and all that. Should she just give what little information about a dealer she can find (she really can't give them much at all)? Have any idea about what she should expect when she goes in? Anything vital to ask the lawyer? Anyone have some other advice? She is just really frightened right now and a little lost.
posted by zoey08 to Law & Government (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Senate HELP committee recently voted to remove the infamous drug question from the FAFSA. Although you are still technically ineligible for federal aid if you have a drug conviction, you are no longer required to tell the government about it. An intermediate step to removing that odious provision, hopefully.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 10:38 AM on June 30, 2007

Don't talk to the cops. Don't assume anything about what the cops will do or what their motivations might be. Talk to the lawyer and nobody else.

She's already done a good amount of damage by speaking to them in the first place (which she did not have to do). Don't make it any worse.
posted by xil at 10:40 AM on June 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yeah, talking to the cops is not so good. She told them she didn't consent to the search and gave little information until she was in the car, and then she ran her mouth for awhile to avoid being taken in.
posted by zoey08 at 10:44 AM on June 30, 2007

So was it her Dad's dope? It must have been someone's.
posted by A189Nut at 10:59 AM on June 30, 2007

Should she just give what little information about a dealer she can find (she really can't give them much at all)?

I don't think she should risk ruining someone else's life for something that is her responsibility.
posted by rancidchickn at 11:03 AM on June 30, 2007

if it was hers, giving someone else up is deplorable and unconciousable. part of being an adult is taking responsibility. even if it's a "dealer" that she doesn't know isn't ok. if it's her first offense and depending on the amount, etc. she could very well get it expunged/sealed or reduced. but, like everyone else has said, she needs to shut the hell up. but i can't stress enough how horrible a thing it is to go in and start talking about someone else to save yourself. it's her mistake, she needs to step up to the plate.
posted by andywolf at 11:07 AM on June 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

it's unclear for obvious reasons whether this is the case, but it is pretty shitty to implicate someone else so as to avoid charges if you are actually guilty (unless, of course, the other person is ok with that for some reason).

this is probably something to discuss with your lawyer, but you might be able to bargain for a different set of charges. i know someone who was arrested for drugs and convicted for underage drinking (which everyone knew they weren't doing) because the judge felt like they should be convicted/punished but not like it was worth ruining their academic situation.
posted by lgyre at 11:08 AM on June 30, 2007

If she was speeding and on drugs, she endangered people's lives because driving under the influence impairs motor control and judgment. Throw speeding into the mix and I think you get the picture. She's very lucky to have gotten released, so just let the lawyer handle it.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:43 AM on June 30, 2007

Best answer: (This is not legal advice. I am not anyone's lawyer. I'm not licensed to practice anywhere. I haven't passed the bar ... but I know a li'l bit.)

A few points, only some of which are helpful.

1. Grad school for three years? That sounds a lot like law school. If so, your friend should take heart: this will not ruin her life. It will be something she has to explain (probably repeatedly), but it will (probably) not keep her out of law school or from admission to the bar.

2. In order for zoey08's MeFi post to be used against his friend, he'd have to be called as a witness. That's if the police or Prosecutor can find it. Likely on a minor possession charge they don't care or have the time to do that. Some of you Chicken Littles need to chill a bit. Not saying it was a good idea, but some of the admonitions are far stronger than they should reasonably be.

3. I'm not sure why people are so broken up about giving up a dealer. It's a "cost of doing business" for a dealer, and a price they have to pay for the job/hobby they take part in. At the same time, if it is her weed, and she gives up her dealer, I can imagine having a hard time finding a new one.

4. Do not settle for the "family friend" civil attorney. Get a criminal attorney. The attorney will know everything the attorney needs to know. She should tell him everything. Every single detail. From start to finish. He or she will know what to ask. That's their job.

5. Any guarantees about reduced charges/sentences/etc need to come from the Prosecutor. The police typically have very little power to make good on their promises to that effect. Her attorney will know that.

6. Despite thinking some of these admonitions were a little overboard, one thing I agree with is that not another word about the case should come out of either of your mouths except to an attorney. Period.
posted by toomuchpete at 11:44 AM on June 30, 2007

Busted!: Drug War Survival Skills makes for an interesting read.
posted by kmennie at 11:55 AM on June 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: First of all, my friend doesn't know any dealers, so couldn't give any up. The car is driven by the whole family and frequently carries passengers. Who knows who it belonged to, could be the person, could be friends. Also, posting online anonymously and in a vague way (I changed most of the details about the case) isn't going to result in her (his?) conviction in Texas (Louisiana?). That's absurd and hysterical. People post legal questions in many places. I have no real connection to her; we don't even live that close and are just old friends. I was curious about the case. Besides, I didn't say anything that the cops didn't know and record on video. So Christ, give helpful information if you have experience with this or don't bother. Thanks to the people who pointed out that it won't hurt my friend's future in grad school- I was most worried about this.
posted by zoey08 at 11:57 AM on June 30, 2007

IANAL, cop, or druggie, so I really don't have experience here, but I call BS on the cops' threats. She is the one that is going to be charged. (Unless it was really hers and she's being offered immunity for turning in her dealer, but, as others said, don't trust the cops on that.)

The other thing that strikes me as really strange about this is that the cop "smelled the notorious smell of the green," yet your friend, who was inside the car, didn't smell it? I think one of their stories doesn't add up. What I'm visualizing from your post is that it was in a baggie in the glove box or something, in which case I question how the cop smelled it. Perhaps you could argue that the case should be thrown out because the cop lacked probable cause?
posted by fogster at 12:14 PM on June 30, 2007

Best answer: They told her that within a week, she must confess, bring the guilty party in to confess, or bring them the name of/ information on a dealer.

This is horseshit. She has the absolute right to remain silent, and should have no further direct contact with the cops, whatsoever.

Let her lawyer talk for her (and he should be a local criminal lawyer who has experience with the local judges/DA and experience with marijuana cases. Your local NORML branch can refer you. This is not a place to use your family lawyer -- bring in a domain expert.

Her lawyer will recognize that the police are trying to make an easy case out of a marginal one (i.e. by getting a confession from _someone_), and/or trying to get a lead on a case that's actually meaningful (i.e. dealer). If she is uncooperative (which she is inherently allowed to do, it's one of the few remaining rights that anyone on American soil does have), then she is helping herself.

The only thing she is required to do is show up for court, if/when she is summoned to do so. Any offer for a deal to drop or reduce charges will come from the prosecutor or DA, and it will be communicated to her through her attorney (who will insist that it be in writing).

Considering that she was released at the scene (presumably without being photographed and/or fingerprinted), I'd say she's got a reasonable chance of walking away from this problem. A surprising number of small bags of marijuana have a funny habit of disappearing while under the control of the police (and this is easier if the suspect hasn't been processed). Beyond that, a surprising number of DA's won't bother with a simple low-quantity possession case unless they've got a confession (and even then, they're usually dealt with through a plea-bargain and a "diversion" program). Her local lawyer will know whether this is the case in her Texas town, with her local DA.

She also should be reminded that if she's an adult and wishes to use marijuana in a relatively risk-free fashion, that she should seriously consider moving to a state where that sort of behavior is more tolerated. California, Nevada and Oregon all come to mind -- the maximum penalty for simple possession of a reasonable amount in these states is a fine (that is probably lower than what she's going to pay for her lawyer). In California, this doesn't involve arrest (check out SB 95 from 1975) -- so when you are asked later in life "Have you ever been arrested?" you can honestly answer "No."

IANAL, but I once paid one (in Virginia) to teach me this.
posted by toxic at 12:15 PM on June 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: From my experience, cars that have had been smoked in kind of reek for awhile. Multiple people use the car each day (shares with siblings). Old cars or cars with cloth seats absorb odors particularly well. I would guess that she smelled it but wasn't aware that she was driving dirty- just the odor alone wouldn't get you in trouble. The officers knew she wasn't under the influence and couldn't smell it on her hands- part of why she wasn't arrested, I assume.
posted by zoey08 at 12:20 PM on June 30, 2007

The World Famous; Yeah, you're right. I should have added ",and the measure should easily pass into law." It does have a lot of support. But that came out completely wrong and is not a guarantee for this person. Sorry, zoey08.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 12:30 PM on June 30, 2007

Response by poster: Never said it was a legal career. It's not.
posted by zoey08 at 12:30 PM on June 30, 2007

Loosen up, World Famous, will ya?

The legal world is not half as sinister as you want to make us believe.

Yes, it is entirely possible to be a drug addict, kick the habit and have a great career in just about anything. Heck, you can even become president of the USA with such a history.
posted by sour cream at 12:36 PM on June 30, 2007

Zoey08, Please, please, shut up. ANYTHING you say can only do harm. It MAY not actually do harm, but it MIGHT, and it surely CANNOT under any circumstances do any good. Don't be baited into speaking further.

Ignore all advice except that she must speak to a criminal defense attorney, ASAP, not talk to anyone else and do what the lawyer says to do.

Personally, I am NOT a lawyer and this is not legal advice.
posted by tyllwin at 12:43 PM on June 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I suggest that you take with a grain of salt every statement that a drug conviction is no big deal for a legal career

A (recent) drug conviction is a big deal for a legal career in most states, because it'll make it much harder to pass the bar's background check, and the other "good moral character" tests. A simple arrest? Not so much. Given the nature of the profession, lawyers are much more likely not to presume guilt strictly based on an arrest.

Furthermore, most "diversion" programs that are offered to first-time drug offenders are specifically designed to avoid burdening the offender with a conviction on their record. Most state's systems are modeled on the Federal one, which involves the offender entering a guilty plea, which the court sets aside for the duration of the diversion program. When the offender completes the program successfully, the plea is set aside, and the offender's record reflects "Arrested, with charges dropped" (which is usually easy to expunge a few years later).

There is an enormous difference between that sort of record and a criminal conviction.

And for the folks talking about the dreaded question 31 on the FAFSA form -- you people need to go back and read what the form and worksheet actually says about drug convictions. Here is the question:

"Has the student been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while the student was receiving federal student aid (grants, loans, and/or work-study)? "

If she wasn't receiving aid at the time of this incident, it will not affect her ability to get aid in the future -- regardless of what happens in Congress, and regardless of whether she ends up being convicted for this incident.
posted by toxic at 12:48 PM on June 30, 2007

Response by poster: World Famous, would you mind not posting any more? You are boring me. I can't stop you, I can only make a kind request. Thanks to those who told me that this post could be dangerous, though I doubt it; I seriously changed almost all the details to where if a hick cop was reading metafilter looking for details about an inane traffic stop he made some time ago he would have no way to prove it was related to the situation. I promise I'm being more prudent than trolls might think. Thanks for your concern, though. I was really just looking to see if anyone has heard of this sort of bargain- I think toxic made it clear that this sort of thing should not be pursued or trusted. So thanks guys! I feel more educated now.
posted by zoey08 at 1:08 PM on June 30, 2007

Really? Is there a current or former U.S. President with a conviction for possession?

Well the current one has a conviction for DUI and has stated that he has not used any illegal drugs since 1974. I'm not quite sure what that is supposed to prove, though.

I also don't see the OP's friend in any great danger of being convicted, if she sticks to her guns. "My family smokes weed in this car all the time, but not me" is a pretty good defense, and I can't see her get a conviction on what they appear to have against her.

(But then again, did you say this is Texas?)
posted by sour cream at 1:09 PM on June 30, 2007

i got arrested for a very minor amount of drugs (3 grams) when i was 19. it was a class 5 felony. i went thru exactly what toxic mentions above, it was literaly the only time i've had drugs in my possession. i've had tons of background checks done in a few different states and it never shows up. well, until recently, but it's complicated and shouldn't be happening. but aside from the hiccup i'm dealing with now it's never been an issue and according to the paperwork i reviewed of my case recently, even the fbi records of the arrest were returned and sealed in my file. it's the whole point of expungement.

I'm not sure why people are so broken up about giving up a dealer. It's a "cost of doing business" for a dealer, and a price they have to pay for the job/hobby they take part in.

it's the price a person pays for taking a risk that's illegal. if you make the mistake, you deal with the consequences. IMHO it shows a weakness of character to pawn off the consequences of your actions onto someone else. if i knew someone that would do that i would never want to associate with them again, how could you trust them?
posted by andywolf at 1:15 PM on June 30, 2007

Well the current one has a conviction for DUI and has stated that he has not used any illegal drugs since 1974.
And the current veep has two DUI convictions.

posted by kirkaracha at 3:17 PM on June 30, 2007

If she is in a MA or PhD program and is funded (it's not clear what kind of grad program it is, funding is less likely with an MA), I don't see how this could have any impact on grad school, unless a trial and whatever follows take up her time. At no point in my graduate career have I filled out a fafsa, or answered any questions related to my funding along these lines. Actually I may have filled out one when applying, but she is presumably past that point now. I've heard that it can be a problem for applying for some fellowships (e.g. the NSF graduate fellowship). If she is paying for grad school with loans, then it may be a different story, of course.
posted by advil at 4:02 PM on June 30, 2007

IANAL, but I would think anything posted to Metafilter by a third-party would be hearsay.
posted by Skwirl at 5:06 PM on June 30, 2007

Hear hear, hearsay.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:05 PM on June 30, 2007

zoey08, if I could physically restrain you from posting another word here, I would. Why in the world do you think it's a good idea for you to create written, public evidence against your friend on Metafilter?

Stop being so paranoid. As long as zoey08 has no direct knowledge of anything, nothing he says will have any use. And cops are not going to comb the internet over one tiny baggie of weed.
posted by delmoi at 9:41 PM on June 30, 2007

Possession laws vary by state. In mine, whatever is found during a search belongs to the operator of the vehicle unless claimed by another person. Period. End of story.

I do not know how Texas handles possession for vehicle searches. You can view Texas statutes here.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 1:59 AM on July 1, 2007

The legal world is not half as sinister as you want to make us believe.

Ah ha ha ha ha.

Look, people. I can almost guarantee you that 99.9% of Mefi lawyers would not be posting details of their or their "friend's" drug arrest on the internet. Take that as you will.
posted by footnote at 10:43 AM on July 1, 2007

At no point in my graduate career have I filled out a fafsa...

I had to fill out a FAFSA every year for my teaching and research assistantships. Which only goes to prove that a sufficiently small sample can be used to prove pretty much anything.
posted by solotoro at 11:38 AM on July 1, 2007

I don't know about the rest of this thread, but a first time possession of presumably a small amount is no big deal. Get a lawyer, obviously, do not be surprised if it gets thrown out. At most you'll have to go on some sort of diversion.
posted by geoff. at 11:48 AM on July 1, 2007

Look, people. I can almost guarantee you that 99.9% of Mefi lawyers would not be posting details of their or their "friend's" drug arrest on the internet. Take that as you will.

Yeah, because they wouldn't need any help? And besides, if they actually represent the person, they can't be called to testify due to the attorney client privilege. Lawyers make public statements on behalf of their clients all the time.
posted by delmoi at 3:17 PM on July 1, 2007

Just FYI, Texas Marijuana Laws, courtesy of NORML

Other states can be found on the same site.
posted by SuperNova at 4:13 PM on July 1, 2007

Delmoi, you really don't know what you're talking about. If an attorney posted information about a client on the internet they'd lose any kind of privilege they might have had. Privilege is waived if you disclose to third parties.

And anyway, I didn't mean to say that Mefi lawyers wouldn't post about clients (because of course they wouldn't.) What I meant to say is that to most people even peripherally involved in the criminal justice system, posting details about a pending criminal matter online would seem needlessly imprudent.
posted by footnote at 6:11 AM on July 2, 2007

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