It's 11:11 p.m. on November 19, 2008 and I'm feverishly chain-smoking
cigarettes and guzzling vodka in an attempt to calm down as I type
this story. I left my sister's house a little over an hour ago after
a wonderful night of chatting and chili. She lives in the town of
POTtsboro, Texas which has more cops per square inch than any town
I've ever been in. I keep my drinking to very minimal amounts and
tonight validated all those sober visits I've made.
I was half-way home when I saw a most dreaded sight - flashing blue
lights in my rear-view mirror. I quickly started scanning the
winding, country road until I found a place to safely pull over. A
POTtsboro police officer approached my driver-side window, politely
introduced himself, and asked for my Drivers License and proof of
insurance. I was prepared for his request and handed him both items.
He then informed me that he had pulled me over for faulty operating
equipment. Said one of my brake lights was stuck on and the other
was not working at all. He asked me to sit tight and returned to his
vehicle to run my numbers.
He returned to my window a few minutes later and asked me to step to
the rear of my vehicle while he "explained this to me". Instead of
"explaining this to me" he started a fishing expedition:
"Ever been arrested before?" he asked.
"Yes, a misdemeanor marijuana possession in California around '98," I
"Do you have any marijuana in your possession?"
"Do you mind if I search your vehicle?"
I responded, "I will comply with your requests but will not give you
permission to search my vehicle."
His head cocked to the side, similar to the way my border collie does
when I talk to him, and a few moments slowly ticked by.
"OK, just stand here for a minute and I'll get back to you." he said
as he returned to his car. A few moments later he informed me that a
K9 Unit was on their way and we would be waiting for their arrival.
Some polite and quite interesting conversation filled the next 30
minutes. I think we were both fishing for information at this point.
In between the small talk about how long each of us had lived in the
area, how great the fishing was right now and how it was "a very nice
night for November," the real questions/answers slipped out.
He explained that his experience has told him everyone who refuses a
search is trying to hide something. I replied that it is a shame all
citizens do not understand nor exercise our Bill of Rights. I also
commented that I was about to prove his assumption was incorrect. At
some point he informed me I was only the third person in his entire
career to refuse a search.
I found an opening to talk about medical marijuana since it was
connected to my possession charge. He asked if my husband had a
prescription and quickly conceded when I responded with "Tom had a
recommendation from his doctor."
"A recommendation, yes." He nodded. It does give me some hope that
this young Texas police officer seemed to realize the difference!
When I asked how long he was allowed to detain me while we waited for
the dogs he nervously agreed with me as I answered my own question
with "a reasonable amount of time to be determined by the officer."
Of course we all, hopefully, know the judge/jury would have that
He then commented that he is usually fairly lenient with small
amounts of marijuana but had zero tolerance for any other drug. I
replied, "I would hope alcohol would be your greatest concern, yes?!"
I mentioned that Texas has recently passed a state law which gives
the arresting officer discretion in minor marijuana possession cases
and asked him if/how he implemented that law. Unfortunately he
answered that marijuana possession is still a class B misdemeanor and
our county has not yet implemented the structure to avoid taking the
suspect through the jail scene.
I asked him if he would have called for the dogs had I given him
permission to search my car. He answered, "No, and you would
probably be home by now, right?!" He followed with, "If someone asked
to search my car I would let them - I've nothing to hide!" I
responded that he should check out the ACLU website the next time he
had a few spare moments.
Finally, two Sherman squad cars pulled in and one female and two male
officers stepped over to speak with the POTtsboro officer. I was very
lightly patted down by the courteous female officer. I asked her
several K9 questions as one of the male officers walked a gorgeous
German Shepherd around my car twice.
It was at the end of the second lap when the dog "alerted" by jumping
up on my passenger-side quarter panel. "GOOD BOY!" the officer said
as he playfully patted the dog and took him back to his car.
The officer approached me and said, "Our dog has alerted on your
vehicle so we are going to search it now."
They were, thankfully, respectful of my property and each of the
three of them approached me at different times during the search with
They all started with, "Tell me truthfully why you refused his search
request." and ended with if/when was the last time I carried/smoked
marijuana in my vehicle.
I have NEVER carried marijuana in my car and I think both sides were
trying to figure out why the dog would "alert" as they seemed to
begin to believe this fact also.
I have NEVER smoked marijuana in my car but knew the dog would
"alert" from the moment I was given the information that K9 was on the
As the event drew to a close they all seemed to justify their dog's
"alert" by concluding my car had received a secondhand high from the
marijuana that must have oozed out of my body every time I drove it!
So, the morale(s) of the story?
1) Never, NEVER, drive a vehicle on public streets unless it is in
good working condition, the tags, your Drivers License and insurance
are all up-to-date.
2) Always be courteous to police officers since they have your
freedom in their hands.
3) MEMORIZE THIS: "Officer, I will fully cooperate with you but I
will not give you permission to search my person and/or vehicle"
SERIOUSLY, MEMORIZE IT!! Also make time to visit the ACLU website and
print their Know Your Rights: Bustcard,
Note: Jo-D Harrison is our Membership Coordinator and an Assistant
Webmaster. On November 20th she successfully repaired her brake
lights by installing the correct bulbs for a total cost of $2.41!