An ordinary traffic stop can turn into a nightmare of epic proportions if the officer who stops you decides that you might be transporting drugs.
Unfortunately, innocence is no guarantee that the police will let you go after a traffic stop. Even worse, if you assert your basic Constitutional rights, you may find yourself arrested anyhow. Here's what you need to know and how to protect yourself.
Just About Anything Can Be Mistaken For Drugs These Days
Police officers are on the prowl for narcotic traffickers all the time and some officers are taking some big leaps when they make conclusions about what they see in people's cars.
For example, two truckers were arrested and charged with drug trafficking when the baking soda they were keeping in their cab tested positive as cocaine. In another case, a Texas driver was arrested for having a sock full of kitty litter in his car to capture moisture. Again, another roadside drug test kit misidentified the substance -- although that time it was thought to be meth. A Brooklyn man was also arrested for meth based on another faulty drug kit -- although he was actually carrying a bag full of Jolly Rancher candy.
Of course, the ineffective and inaccurate roadside drug kits that police use aren't always to blame for misidentified substances and false arrests. Georgia police spotted what they believed was a marijuana farm from high in the air and raided an elderly man's okra garden with full force. A Florida officer's "11 years of training" led her to the conclusion that sugar from a glazed doughnut in someone's car was actually drugs. Another Florida man was arrested when drywall crumbs were deemed "cocaine."
You Need To Assert Your Rights During A Traffic Stop -- Even If They Aren't Respected
Another major problem is that the "War On Drugs" has also turned into a war on civilians, in many cases. Police are trained to intimidate and frighten civilians into behavior -- and many officers react badly when a civilian fails to respond with compliance.
For example, take the situation faced by a Philadelphia attorney who was yanked from her car and arrested after being stopped for speeding because -- although she complied with the officer's request for her registration and license -- she declined to speculate about why she'd been pulled over. The same thing happened to a man in Texas.
Just the same, the very best way to protect yourself from prosecution is to calmly and quietly assert your rights. Even if you're threatened with arrest (or actually arrested) tell the officer that you are asserting your right to remain silent. Even if you're threatened with "obstruction" charges, clearly tell the officer that you do not consent to a search of your car, purse, jacket or person. That's the best way to make sure that your attorney can fight whatever charges are levied against you.
Regardless of the charges you are facing, make sure that you retain a law firm's services as soon as possible.