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Commentary: What Not to Do if You Grow Marijuana and Police Visit You

by John Calvin Jones, professor of law, American University in Bosnia and Hercegovina

[Editor's Note: Last week we reviewed Flex Your Rights' new video, "10 Rules for Dealing with Police." Coincidentally, this piece from law professor John Calvin Jones came in over the transom at the same time. Like Flex Your Rights, Jones, too, is attempting to educate Americans about how to effectively exercise their constitutional rights -- and what can happen to you when you fail to do so. Jones' rules are a little different from Flex Your Rights' "10 Rules," but both are saying essentially the same thing. Here we present Jones' analysis of the case of one New Jersey man and what happened to him when he failed to exercise his rights.]

The latest case of a naïve marijuana grower comes out of New Jersey, where, on March 15, an appellate court affirmed a ruling from 2007 which denied a motion to suppress evidence: a seizure of a lot of weed from the house of one Brian McGacken. Recent headlines on Slate and other web sites emphasized why the police arrived at McGacken's house in the first place -- apparently he and his girlfriend were loud while having sex -- so loud that police received an "anonymous 911 call." Having the police come to your home because of loud sex could lead to amusing anecdotes down the years, but it is doubtful McGacken is finding anything to laugh about.

Instead, we have a scenario where police enter the house, follow McGacken upstairs (without being invited), smell pot, then start asking questions, and well, we know the rest. Before reviewing the legal arguments and ultimate ruling of two New Jersey Appellate Division judges (Lihotz and Ashrafi) in New Jersey v. McGacken, let me start with the errors of Brian McGacken.

According to the opinion, as admitted by McGacken, when police arrived at his place to investigate the 911 call, McGacken invited the police into the foyer. Rule #1: If you are growing any plants, much less have any weed in your domicile, do not invite the police inside. Then, after McGacken explained that any reports of screaming were accurate -- as then confirmed by his sex partner, police asked McGacken for ID. Rule #2: If you are growing weed in your house, speak to the police as little as possible. And since the Supreme Court ruling in Hiibel v. Nevada, 542 U.S. 177 (2004), unless you live in one of 20 states that have a law requiring you to identify yourself, which NJ does not, then you do not need to say anything to the police. That is, it is not a crime to refuse to answer or ID yourself -- even the Appellate Court in McGacken's case noted that. Regardless, if you do live in one of those self-ID states, just give your full name -- do not lie -- and then say nothing more.

By the way, the Supreme Court qualified the issue of ID laws in Hiibel, noting that one must identify only when police say that they have reason to believe that a person is suspected of committing a crime. If you ask the police if you are suspected of a crime, and they say no, as was the case with McGacken, not only are you not required to show ID, but you should then apply Rule #3: Always ask the police, "Am I free to leave?" If they say "no," but are still in your house -- tell them to leave, that you do not consent to their presence or search, and get the phone and tell them that you are calling your lawyer. (The reason you say that you are calling a lawyer is two-fold: first, it puts the cops on notice that they should go harass someone else; and second, while they will tell you that you cannot use the phone, they know that one can always have counsel present while in custody -- so you can surely have advice of counsel when you are not in custody). Of course, you do not have to call any real lawyer, just call your own voicemail and make a recording of the events in a loud voice saying stuff like: "The police are in my house/apartment without a warrant and no probable cause, they are not invited, I have asked them to leave, I do not consent to any search, etc." If after all that, the police still do not leave, just sit there -- and be quiet.

Needless to say, McGacken did not follow rules #2 or #3 either. But, according to the court opinion -- McGacken admitted he went upstairs to get his ID, and was followed by New Jersey State Trooper Thomas Holmes.

According to the opinion, "Trooper Holmes testified that he followed defendant upstairs for two reasons -- to protect his own and his fellow trooper's safety and to make sure there was no other person in the home in need of aid." But did he really?

Earlier in the opinion, the judges wrote that:

"Trooper Thomas Holmes and a fellow trooper responded [to the 911 call]. [Once on the scene, they] heard and saw nothing unusual from outside the residence. They knocked on the door and announced that they were the State Police. Within a reasonable time, defendant opened the door dressed only in a bathrobe. Otherwise, defendant's demeanor and conduct were normal, and he was completely cooperative. When told about the report of screaming, defendant invited the troopers to step inside and explained that the screaming came during loud sex with his girlfriend. The troopers asked to talk to the girlfriend. She came from upstairs wearing only a towel and confirmed defendant's explanation."

If the two occupants of the house said that they are the only two in the house, and the officers believe them, then there is no reason to make sure there is no one else in the house "in need of aid." Further, if the police accept the explanation for the screaming, and the police are ready to end a routine follow-up to an unnecessary 911 call, then there is no reason to suspect that Trooper Holmes or his fellow trooper would be at risk from the sex screamers. But if the police thought that McGacken was lying or acting suspicious, then there might be cause to keep an eye on McGacken. But, according to the ruling, that's not what police thought.

"No evidence suggested [that] the police had any suspicion of criminal activity by defendant or his girlfriend, or [that the police] wished to conduct a search for evidence of crime. Trooper Holmes testified that... nothing that defendant and his girlfriend did or said downstairs raised suspicion of criminal activity."

The police and the court admit that Trooper Holmes lied when he testified there was no suspicion of criminal behavior. He could not have believed the report of the two lovers, but still had cause to look around to see if someone were in need of assistance. And thus, because he did not believe their explanation, Holmes implied that the two were hindering or obstructing an investigation, an arrestable offense.

But as the court recognizes that Holmes declared that he had no suspicions, that means Holmes believed no one else was in the house -- therefore there was no need to go upstairs in the name of what the court references as an exigent circumstance, of the sort where police may enter a house without a warrant so as to preserve life or prevent serious injury. Again, because Trooper Holmes testified that he had no suspicions that McGacken and his girlfriend were lying, he had no basis to justify a warrantless intrusion.

But that's not how the appeals court ruled. The New Jersey judges referred, over and over, to the idea of this type of warrantless search as necessary to save lives -- and not search for evidence of a crime. So, what did Trooper Holmes do and see when reaching the upstairs bedroom with McGacken? First the court says that Holmes smelled marijuana.

What happened next for this Trooper -- who was not searching for evidence of a crime, but merely responding to a perceived exigency to save a life? According to the court:

"Upstairs, Trooper Holmes saw defendant use his foot to push a tray under a couch. [Holmes] asked defendant what was on the tray, and defendant soon admitted that the tray contained marijuana. In defendant's bedroom, the trooper saw, in plain view, a number of growing marijuana plants, as well as bagged and loose marijuana. He placed defendant under arrest."

Thus, two New Jersey Appellate Court judges decided to abandon all pretense of reason. Without comment they claim that Holmes had to go upstairs to find someone to rescue, though he did not suspect anyone was in need of aid.

McGacken's misadventure leads us to yet another rule, Rule #4: When police ask you something, do not answer. Police are not your friends. They use drug arrests -- the easy pickings -- to gain fame (for some reason local press usually lauds these cops) and fortune. All states and the federal governments have seizure laws that allow law enforcement to take cars, houses, bank accounts, and boats on the mere suspicion that you are engaged in drug-related criminal activity. You can even be acquitted or have charges dropped, yet the cops can keep your stuff.

But more importantly, getting back to Rule #4 and anything related to a search of your person, house, car, or stuff, note what the court did not report that Holmes did after seeing McGacken move the tray? The police officer did not go over and grab the tray. Even though the court said that Holmes was within his right to make a warrantless search given the exigent circumstance of trying to save someone in imminent harm -- and not intending to seize evidence or make an arrest, Holmes did not even try.

Because the tray was not in plain view -- it was hidden under the couch -- and Holmes did not have probable cause to search without a warrant, the cop relied on the tried and true method to collect evidence and make an arrest: a confession. That leads to Rule #5: Never consent to a search. Because the tray was not in plain view -- it was hidden under the couch -- and Holmes did not have probable cause to search without a warrant, the cop relied on the tried and true method to collect evidence and make an arrest: a confession! That is why you are not supposed to answer their questions -- just call the lawyer (see Rule #3 above).

Holmes was careful to say that in no way did he look under the couch to see what was on the tray. However, Holmes testified, and the court explained, that the seized marijuana plants were "in plain view" (meaning not in a closed space, drawer, etc.). Even Trooper Holmes knows Rule #6: If it is in plain view, it belongs to the police, not you!

This exercise in legal sophistry and hypocrisy is not to advocate that anyone should violate state or federal laws -- especially drug laws. Instead it should serve to emphasize that every person should know the limits, guidelines, and rules on constitutional provisions about search and seizure. Even in those states that allow licensed grow operations the Obama administration is still making busts. If you want to stay out of prison, or reduce your chances of getting busted, follow the general advice of The Clash and "know your rights."

Law Enforcement: New York City to Pay Out $33 Million for Unlawful Strip Searches

For the third time in the past nine years, New York City has been forced to pay big bucks for subjecting nonviolent prisoners -- including minor marijuana offenders -- to illegal strip searches. In a settlement announced Monday, the city announced it had agreed to pay $33 million to end the most recent lawsuit stemming from the searches.

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The settlement applies to roughly 100,000 people who were strip-searched after being charged with misdemeanors and taken to Rikers Island or other city jails. These were people who were arrested and strip-searched between 1999 and 2007.

In 2001, under the Giuliani administration, the city settled a similar lawsuit on behalf of 40,000 people strip-searched prior to arraignment for $40 million. In 2005, the city agreed to pay millions of dollars more to settle a lawsuit on behalf of thousands of people illegally strip-searched at Rikers and other city jails between 1999 and 2002.

The most recent settlement came from a lawsuit filed in 2005 by a local law firm. In 2007, the city acknowledged wrongdoing and agreed to hire monitors to ensure that the practice was stopped. But the settlement includes at least 19 people who had been illegally strip-searched after 2007.

Richard Emery, law lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the New York Times it had been settled law since 1986 that it was unconstitutional to require people accused of minor crimes to submit to strip searches. "The city knew this was illegal in 1986, they said it was illegal and they stopped in 2002, and they continued to pursue this illegal practice without justification," he said. "We hope the settlement constitutes some semblance of justice."

It is expected that about 15% of those illegally strip searched, or 15,000 people, will file claims seeking damages. If that's the case, each plaintiff who files would collect about $2,000, although at least two women subjected to involuntary gynecological exams will receive $20,000. The law firm will get $3 million for its efforts.

Emery said many of those strip-searched had been charged with misdemeanors like shoplifting, trespassing, jumping subway turnstiles, or failure to pay child support. Others were small-time marijuana offenders. Under New York law, pot possession is decriminalized, but the NYPD has a common practice of ordering people to empty their pockets -- which you are not required to do -- and then charging them with public possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor.

David Sanchez, 39, of the Bronx, was one of the people strip-searched after a minor pot bust. He said he was searched twice by officers after being arrested in a stop and frisk outside a friend's apartment, but after he was arraigned and taken to Rikers Island, jail guards demanded he submit to a strip-search.

"I was put into a cage and told to take off my clothes," he said Monday, describing how he had to squat and spread his buttocks. "It was horrifying, being a grown man. I was humiliated."

"I don't know why it was done," Emery said, "but it seems like it was a punishment, a way of showing the inmates who is in charge."

And now the good burghers of New York City will pay yet again for the misdeeds of their public servants. Will the third time be the charm? Check back in a few years.

Were You Strip-Searched After a Minor Bust in New York City Between 1999 and 2007? There Could Be $$$$ Waiting for You

As the Chronicle story below reports, New York City is about to pay yet again for unlawfully strip-searching minor offenders, including people busted for public pot possession. If this includes you, it just might behoove you to contact the law firm handling the lawsuit in question, Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff, and Abady. Here's the story: Law Enforcement: New York City to Pay Out $33 Million for Unlawful Strip Searches For the third time in the past ten years, New York City has been forced to pay big bucks for subjecting non-violent prisoners—including minor marijuana offenders—to illegal strip searches. In a settlement announced Monday, the city announced it had agreed to pay $33 million to settle the most recent lawsuit stemming from the illegal strip searches. The settlement applies to roughly 100,000 people who were strip-searched after being charged with misdemeanors and taken to Rikers Island or other city jails. These were people who were arrested and strip-searched between 1999 and 2007. In 2001, under the Giulani administration, the city settled a similar lawsuit on behalf of 40,000 people strip-searched prior to arraignment for $40 million. In 2005, the city agreed to pay millions of dollars more to settle a lawsuit on behalf of thousands of people illegally strip-searched at Rikers and other city jails between 1999 and 2002. The most recent settlement came from a lawsuit filed in 2005 by a local law firm. In 2007, the city acknowledged wrongdoing and agreed to hire monitors to ensure that the practice was stopped. But the settlement includes at least 19 people who had been illegally strip-searched after 2007. Richard Emery, law lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the New York Times it had been settled law since 1986 that it was unconstitutional to require people accused of minor crimes to submit to strip searches. "The city knew this was illegal in 1986, they said it was illegal and they stopped in 2002, and they continued to pursue this illegal practice without justification," he said. "We hope the settlement constitutes some semblance of justice." It is expected that about 15% of those illegally strip searched, or 15,000 people, will file claims seeking damages. If that's the case, each plaintiff who files would collect about $2,000, although at least two women subjected to involuntary gynecological exams will receive $20,000. The law firm will get $3 million for its efforts. Emery said many of those strip-searched had been charged with misdemeanors like shoplifting, trespassing, jumping subway turnstiles, or failure to pay child support. Others were small-time marijuana offenders. Under New York law, pot possession is decriminalized, but the NYPD has a common practice of ordering people to empty their pockets—which you are not required to do—and then charging them with public possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. David Sanchez, 39, of the Bronx, was one of the people strip-searched after a minor pot bust. He said he was searched twice by officers after being arrested in a stop and frisk outside a friend's apartment, but after he was arraigned and taken to Rikers Island, jail guards demanded he submit to a strip-search. "I was put into a cage and told to take off my clothes," he said Monday, describing how he had to squat and spread his buttocks. "It was horrifying, being a grown man. I was humiliated." "I don’t know why it was done," Emery said, "but it seems like it was a punishment, a way of showing the inmates who is in charge." And now the good burghers of New York City will pay yet again for the misdeeds of their public servants. Will the third time be the charm? Check back in a few years.
Location: 
New York City, NY
United States

Were You Strip-Searched After a Minor Bust in New York City Between 1999 and 2007? There Could Be $$$$ Waiting for You

As the Chronicle story below reports, New York City is about to pay yet again for unlawfully strip-searching minor offenders, including people busted for public pot possession. If this includes you, it just might behoove you to contact the law firm handling the lawsuit in question, Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff, and Abady. Here's the story: Law Enforcement: New York City to Pay Out $33 Million for Unlawful Strip Searches For the third time in the past ten years, New York City has been forced to pay big bucks for subjecting non-violent prisoners—including minor marijuana offenders—to illegal strip searches. In a settlement announced Monday, the city announced it had agreed to pay $33 million to settle the most recent lawsuit stemming from the illegal strip searches. The settlement applies to roughly 100,000 people who were strip-searched after being charged with misdemeanors and taken to Rikers Island or other city jails. These were people who were arrested and strip-searched between 1999 and 2007. In 2001, under the Giulani administration, the city settled a similar lawsuit on behalf of 40,000 people strip-searched prior to arraignment for $40 million. In 2005, the city agreed to pay millions of dollars more to settle a lawsuit on behalf of thousands of people illegally strip-searched at Rikers and other city jails between 1999 and 2002. The most recent settlement came from a lawsuit filed in 2005 by a local law firm. In 2007, the city acknowledged wrongdoing and agreed to hire monitors to ensure that the practice was stopped. But the settlement includes at least 19 people who had been illegally strip-searched after 2007. Richard Emery, law lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the New York Times it had been settled law since 1986 that it was unconstitutional to require people accused of minor crimes to submit to strip searches. "The city knew this was illegal in 1986, they said it was illegal and they stopped in 2002, and they continued to pursue this illegal practice without justification," he said. "We hope the settlement constitutes some semblance of justice." It is expected that about 15% of those illegally strip searched, or 15,000 people, will file claims seeking damages. If that's the case, each plaintiff who files would collect about $2,000, although at least two women subjected to involuntary gynecological exams will receive $20,000. The law firm will get $3 million for its efforts. Emery said many of those strip-searched had been charged with misdemeanors like shoplifting, trespassing, jumping subway turnstiles, or failure to pay child support. Others were small-time marijuana offenders. Under New York law, pot possession is decriminalized, but the NYPD has a common practice of ordering people to empty their pockets—which you are not required to do—and then charging them with public possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. David Sanchez, 39, of the Bronx, was one of the people strip-searched after a minor pot bust. He said he was searched twice by officers after being arrested in a stop and frisk outside a friend's apartment, but after he was arraigned and taken to Rikers Island, jail guards demanded he submit to a strip-search. "I was put into a cage and told to take off my clothes," he said Monday, describing how he had to squat and spread his buttocks. "It was horrifying, being a grown man. I was humiliated." "I don’t know why it was done," Emery said, "but it seems like it was a punishment, a way of showing the inmates who is in charge." And now the good burghers of New York City will pay yet again for the misdeeds of their public servants. Will the third time be the charm? Check back in a few years.
Location: 
New York City, NY
United States

Law Enforcement: Drug Cops Kill Two in Drug Raids in Florida and Tennessee

At least two US citizens were killed in their own homes by American police enforcing the war on drugs in a 48-hour period late last week. One was a 52-year-old white grandmother; the other was a 43-year-old black man. Both allegedly confronted home-invading officers with weapons; both were shot to death. No police officers were injured.

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Brenda Van Zwieten
The combination of widespread gun ownership in the US and aggressive drug war policing is a recipe for tragedy, one that is repeated on a regular basis. Gun owners commonly cite protecting themselves from home-invading robbers as a reason for arming themselves, while police cite widespread gun ownership as a reason they need to use SWAT-style tactics, breaking down doors and using overwhelming force against potential shooters. That homeowners would pick up a weapon upon hearing their doors broken down is not surprising, nor is it surprising that police are quick to shoot to kill "suspects" who may pose a threat to them.

The first killing came Thursday morning in North Memphis, when a Bartlett, Tennessee, police narcotics squad serving a search warrant for drug possession -- not sales, manufacture, or possession with intent to sell -- shot and killed Malcolm Shaw, 43, after breaking into his home. Police said they knocked on Shaw's door several times and identified themselves as police before entering the home.

Police said Shaw emerged from a room and pointed a gun at plainclothes officer Patrick Cicci. Cicci fired once, killing Shaw. Cicci is on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

While the Bartlett Police investigation is ongoing, that didn't stop the Shelby County District Attorney's Office from announcing Monday that Cicci will not be prosecuted. Cicci's killing of the homeowner was "apparent justifiable use of deadly force in self defense," a spokesman said.

Bartlett police said that while the Bartlett narcs conducting the raid were not in uniform, their gear clearly identified them as law enforcement. They wore "high-visibility vests" marked "POLICE" in several spots, police said.

The killing of the well-known neighborhood handyman led to the formation of a crowd hostile to police outside his home. Bartlett police on the scene had to call Memphis police to do crowd control.

Memphis police complained that the Bartlett narcs had not followed law enforcement protocols requiring them to notify the local agency when they were operating in its jurisdiction. They said they were notified only as the raid commenced, and that moments later, they got a request for an ambulance at the address, and moments after that, they got a request that they send a couple of police cruisers for crowd control.

Timothy Miers, who said he was Shaw's brother, accused police of being trigger-happy. "How you gonna go in serving a warrant and shoot somebody?" Miers asked. "They already had their finger on the trigger."

The sense of disbelief over the killing was shared by members of the crowd gathered outside Shaw's home. Many complained about the officers' actions.

"My heart fell to the ground," one neighbor said.

"We can't believe it," said another. "Malcolm out of all people."

Family members expressed confusion about the shooting, saying Shaw was not a person they would have expected to threaten officers. "They say he had a gun," said Miers. "My brother doesn't have no gun."

Friends of Shaw said the same thing. "I ain't never seen him with no gun," said Arvette Thomas, a friend of Shaw.

Shaw never bothered anyone, neighbors said. "I think it's wrong to just kill him like they did," said a neighbor, "because he wouldn't hurt a fly."

Less than 48 hours later, members of a Broward County Sheriff's Office SWAT team and its Selective Enforcement Team in Pompano Beach, Florida, shot and killed Brenda Van Zweiten, 52, during a drug raid on her home. Police had developed evidence that drugs were being sold from the residence, and obtained a search warrant. After allegedly identifying themselves as police, they broke through a sliding glass door to a bedroom and arrested Van Zweiten's boyfriend, Gary Nunnemacher, 47, on charges of possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana. Van Zweiten was in a different bedroom, and was shot and killed by deputies when she emerged holding a handgun. According to police, she refused to put down her weapon, so they shot her.

Police reported finding one gram of heroin, four grams of crack cocaine, marijuana, marijuana plants, 40 generic Xanax tablets, $550 cash, two shotguns, and a rifle. Family members said Van Zweiten had a prescription for Xanax, but was not a drug dealer. But police had earlier in the day arrested three people leaving the home who they say had bought drugs there -- although police did not say from whom.

After Van Zweiten's killing, police were unrepentant. "When you approach a police officer with a loaded weapon and don't put the weapon down, there's going to be consequences," sheriff's spokesman Mike Jachles said. "It's unfortunate, but I'd rather be talking about a dead suspect than a dead cop."

Van Zweiten's brother, Bill George, said his sister had recently received threats and was afraid of break-ins. "It was an unlawful shooting," he said. "She's 98 pounds. She was just trying to protect herself. I would come out of my room with a gun too."

As news of Van Zweiten's death spread, friends, neighbors, and family members expressed dismay and disbelief. They called the incident a "set up" and said the blonde grandmother was affectionately called "Mom" by many who knew her for using her home as a neighborhood hangout to keep kids off the streets. Dozens of people gathered in her yard near a flower-bedecked cross put up as a memorial.

"Look at these people," said George. "She helped so many of these young people."

"She was like a second mom to me," said Michael Miller, 18. "She would take in anybody."

"There was no reason for this," said son Rob Singleton, 32.

Van Zwieten had no criminal history involving drugs or violence, state records show.

George said that Van Zweiten had reason to fear intruders because she had been threatened recently by a man accused of stealing watches and rings that were part of a shrine to two of her four sons, who had died within the past three years, one in a traffic accident, one of a drug overdose. She had just installed an alarm system last week, George said. "She was scared."

Singleton showed reporters inside the house, including the small bedroom where she was shot. A large puddle of blood remained on the floor, and the walls and ceiling were splattered with blood -- from his mother's head, he said. "She was probably running into the closet and trying to hide," he said.

As is all too typical in such raid, police also totally trashed the house. As the Sun-Sentinel reported: "Much of the interior of the three-bedroom house looked as if it had been hit by a tornado... Drawers were pulled from dressers, clothes were scattered, a bed was overturned, food and crockery had been knocked from kitchen cabinets." The shrine to her dead sons was also destroyed, Singleton said.

Two Broward County Sheriff's Office detectives are on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. They have not been named.

Drug War Chronicle Video Review: "10 Rules for Dealing With Police," from Flex Your Rights

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

In 2008, the latest year tallied in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, more than 14 million people were arrested in the United States, and uncounted millions more were subject to "stop and frisk" searches either on the streets or after being stopped for an alleged traffic violations. Of all those arrests in 2008, more than 1.7 million were for drug offenses, and about half of those were for marijuana offenses. For both pot busts in particular and drug arrests in general, nearly 90% of those arrested were for simple possession.

10 Rules is available with a donation to StoptheDrugWar.org now!

"10 Rules" will help the both the entirely innocent and those guilty of nothing more of possessing drugs in violation of our contemptible drug laws reduce the harm of their run-ins with police. Not that it encourages the violation of any laws -- it doesn't -- but it does clearly, concisely, and effectively explain what people can do to exercise their constitutional rights while keeping their cool, in the process protecting themselves from police who may not have their best interests in mind.

Those stops and those arrests mentioned above, of course, were not random or evenly distributed among the population. If you're young, or non-white, or an identifiable member of some sub-culture fairly or unfairly associated with drug use, you are much more likely to be stopped, hassled, and perhaps arrested. The writers of "10 Rules," Scott Morgan and Steve Silverman of Flex Your Rights understand that.

Building on the foundation of their 2003 video, "Busted: A Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters," which featured mainly young, white people involved in police encounters, Morgan and Silverman have expanded their target audience. In three of the four scenarios used in the video -- a traffic stop and search, a street stop-and-frisk search, and a knock-and-talk home search -- the protagonists are a young black man, a young Latino man, and a black grandmother, respectively. In only one scene, two young men apparently doing a dope deal on the street, are the citizen protagonists white.

That's not to say that "10 Rules" is intended only for the communities most targeted by police, just that the writers understand just who is being targeted by police. The lessons and wisdom of "10 Rules" are universally relevant in the United States, and all of us can benefit from knowing what our rights are and how to exercise them effectively. "10 Rules" does precisely that, and it does so in a street-smart way that understands cops sometimes don't want to play by the rules.

"10 Rules" build upon the earlier "Busted" in more than one sense. While "10 Rules" is expanding the terrain covered by "Busted," it has taken the cinematic quality to the next level, too. While "Busted" was made using a beta cam, this flick is shot in High Definition video, and that makes for some great production values, which are evident from the opening scene. "10 Rules" was shot on a bigger budget that "Busted," it has more actors (including some drug reform faces you might recognize), and more professional actors, and it has more of the feel of a movie than most video documentaries.

And it has legendary defense attorney William "Billy" Murphy, who plays the role of socratic interlocuter in the video. (You may remember him from appearances on HBO's "The Wire.") Appearing in a courtroom-like setting before a multi-ethnic group of very interested questioners, the pony-tailed lawyer begins with a basic discussion of the rights granted us by the US Constitution, especially the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth amendments dealing with the right to be free of unwarranted searches, the right to stay silent, and the right to legal counsel. His performance, folksy, yet forceful; scholarly, yet street-savvy, sparkles throughout; his natural charisma shines through.

From there, we alternate between Williams and his audience and the scenarios mentioned above. We see the young black man, Darren, get pulled over in traffic, produce a bit of bad attitude, and suffer mightily for his efforts. He gets handcuffed, manhandled, and consents to a search of his vehicle, after which the cop leaves his belongings strewn in the wet road and gives him a traffic ticket.

Then it's back to the courtroom, where Darren, angry and feeling disrespected, tells his tale. Murphy is sympathetic, but explains that Darren broke rule #1.

"Rule #1, always be calm and collected," the veteran attorney intones. "A police encounter is absolutely the worst time and place to vent your frustrations about getting stopped by the police. As soon as you opened your mouth, you failed the attitude test. Don't ever talk back, don't raise your voice, don't use profanity. Being hostile to police is stupid and dangerous."

Such advice may be frustrating, but it's smart, and it's street-smart. Murphy noted that things could have turned out even worse, as the video showed in an alternate take on the scene with Darren twitching on the ground after getting tasered for his efforts. He also threw in some good advice about pulling over immediately, turning off the car, keeping your hands on the wheel, and turning on an interior light just to reduce police officers' nervousness level.

Murphy uses the same scenario with Darren to get through rule #2 ("You always have the right to remain silent"), rule #3 ("You have the right to refuse searches"), rule #4 ("Don't get fooled" -- the police can and will lie to you or tell you you'll get off easier if you do what they ask), and rule #5 ("Ask if you are free to go"). This time, the cop still has a bad attitude and Darren still gets a ticket, but he doesn't counterproductively antagonize the cop, he doesn't get rousted and handcuffed, he doesn't allow the cop to search his vehicle, he doesn't get intimated by the officers' threat to bring in a drug dog that will tear up his car, and he does ask if he's free to go. He is.

Which brings us to a discussion of probable cause and and rule #6: "Don't expose yourself" and give police probable cause to search you. The video shows a car with bumper stickers saying "Got Weed?" "Bad Cop, No Donut," and "My other gun is a Tech-9" -- probably not a smart idea unless you really enjoy getting pulled over and hassled. More generally, "don't expose yourself" means that if you are carrying items you really don't want the police to see (and arrest you for), don't leave them lying around in plain sight. That's instant probable cause.

I'm not going to tell you the rest of the rules because I want you to see the video for yourself. But I will tell you about the heart-rending scene where the black grandmother lets police search her home in the name of public safety -- there have been some gang gun crimes, they explain pleasantly -- and ends up getting busted for her granddaughter's pot stash, arrested, and is now facing eviction from her public housing. Under Murphy's guidance, we rewind and replay the scene, with grandma politely but firmly exercising her rights, keeping the cops out of her home, and not going to jail or being threatened with losing her home.

In a time when police are more aggressive than ever, "10 Rules" is an absolutely necessary corrective, full of folksy -- but accurate -- information. "10 Rules" is the kind of basic primer on your rights that every citizen needs to know, it's well-thought out and well-written, and it not only is it full of critically important information, it's entertaining.

Go watch it and learn how to flex your rights. Better yet, watch it together with your friends, your family, or your classmates, then practice putting the rules into effect. Sometimes it's as simple as saying a simple phrase -- "Officer, am I free to go?" Do some role-playing, practice saying the magic words, and "10 Rules" can help you survive any police encounter in better shape than otherwise. When you're done, watch it and practice again -- familiarity is the best help when facing an intimidating police officer staring down at you.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to people who feel strongly enough about the rule of law in this country to help others learn how the law protects them and how to protect themselves within the law. A big thank you to the guys at Flex Your Rights is in order. And they would be the first to tell you the best way to thank them is to learn and apply the "10 Rules."

Drug War Chronicle Video Review: "10 Rules for Dealing With Police," from Flex Your Rights

In 2008, the latest year tallied in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, more than 14,000,000 people were arrested in the United States, and uncounted millions more were subject to "stop and frisk" searches either on the streets or after being stopped for an alleged traffic violations. Of all those arrests in 2008, more than 1.7 million were for drug offenses, and about half of those were for marijuana offenses. For both pot busts in particular and drug arrests in general, nearly 90% of those arrested were for simple possession. 10 Rules is available with a donation to StoptheDrugWar.org now! "10 Rules" will help the both the entirely innocent and those guilty of nothing more of possessing drugs in violation of our contemptible drug laws reduce the harm of their run-ins with police. Not that it encourages the violation of any laws -- it doesn't -- but it does clearly, concisely, and effectively explain what people can do to exercise their constitutional rights while keeping their cool, in the process protecting themselves from police who may not have their best interests in mind. Those stops and those arrests mentioned above, of course, were not random or evenly distributed among the population. If you're young, or non-white, or an identifiable member of some sub-culture fairly or unfairly associated with drug use, you are much more likely to be stopped, hassled, and perhaps arrested. The writers of "10 Rules," Scott Morgan and Steve Silverman of Flex Your Rights understand that. Building on the foundation of their 2003 video, "Busted: A Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters," which featured mainly young, white people involved in police encounters, Morgan and Silverman have expanded their target audience. In three of the four scenarios used in the video -- a traffic stop and search, a street stop-and-frisk search, and a knock-and-talk home search -- the protagonists are a young black man, a young Latino man, and a black grandmother, respectively. In only one scene, two young men apparently doing a dope deal on the street, are the citizen protagonists white. That's not to say that "10 Rules" is intended only for the communities most targeted by police, just that the writers understand just who is being targeted by police. The lessons and wisdom of "10 Rules" are universally relevant in the United States, and all of us can benefit from knowing what our rights are and how to exercise them effectively. "10 Rules" does precisely that, and it does so in a street-smart way that understands cops sometimes don't want to play by the rules. "10 Rules" build upon the earlier "Busted" in more than one sense. While "10 Rules" is expanding the terrain covered by "Busted," it has taken the cinematic quality to the next level, too. While "Busted" was made using a beta cam, this flick is shot in High Definition video, and that makes for some great production values, which are evident from the opening scene. "10 Rules" was shot on a bigger budget that "Busted," it has more actors (including some drug reform faces you might recognize), and more professional actors, and it has more of the feel of a movie than most video documentaries. And it has legendary defense attorney William "Billy" Murphy, who plays the role of socratic interlocuter in the video. (You may remember him from appearances on HBO's "The Wire.") Appearing in a courtroom-like setting before a multi-ethnic group of very interested questioners, the pony-tailed lawyer begins with a basic discussion of the rights granted us by the US Constitution, especially the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth amendments dealing with the right to be free of unwarranted searches, the right to stay silent, and the right to legal counsel. His performance, folksy, yet forceful; scholarly, yet, street-savvy, sparkles throughout; his natural charisma shines through. From there, we alternate between Williams and his audience and the scenarios mentioned above. We see the young black man, Darren, get pulled over in traffic, produce a bit of bad attitude, and suffer mightily for his efforts. He gets handcuffed, manhandled, and consents to a search of his vehicle, after which the cop leaves his belongings strewn in the wet road and gives him a traffic ticket. Then it's back to the courtroom, where Darren, angry and feeling disrespected, tells his tale. Murphy is sympathetic, but explains that Darren broke rule #1. "Rule #1, always be calm and collected," the veteran attorney intones. "A police encounter is absolutely the worst time and place to vent your frustrations about getting stopped by the police. As soon as you opened your mouth, you failed the attitude test. Don't ever talk back, don't raise your voice, don't use profanity. Being hostile to police is stupid and dangerous." Such advice may be frustrating, but it's smart, and it's street-smart. Murphy noted that things could have turned out even worse, as the video showed in an alternate take on the scene with Darren twitching on the ground after getting tasered for his efforts. He also threw in some good advice about pulling over immediately, turning off the car, keeping your hands on the wheel, and turning on an interior light just to reduce police officers' nervousness level. Murphy uses the same scenario with Darren to get through rule #2 ("You always have the right to remain silent"), rule #3 ("You have the right to refuse searches), rule #4 ("Don't get fooled" -- the police can and will lie to you or tell you you'll get off easier if you do what they ask), and rule #5 ("Ask if you are free to go"). This time, the cop still has a bad attitude and Darren still gets a ticket, but he doesn't counterproductively antagonize the cop, he doesn't get rousted and handcuffed, he doesn't allow the cop to search his vehicle, he doesn't get intimated by the officers' threat to bring in a drug dog that will tear up his car, and he does ask if he's free to go. He is. Which brings us to a discussion of probable cause and and rule #6: "Don't expose yourself" and give police probable cause to search you. The video shows a car with bumper stickers saying "Got Weed?" "Bad Cop, No Donut," and "My other gun is a Tech-9" -- probably not a smart idea unless you really enjoy getting pulled over and hassled. More generally, "don't expose yourself" means that if you are carrying items you really don't want the police to see (and arrest you for), don't leave them lying around in plain sight. That's instant probable cause. I'm not going to tell you the rest of the rules because I want you to see the video for yourself. But I will tell you about the heart-rending scene where the black grandmother lets police search her home in the name of public safety -- there have been some gang gun crimes, they explain pleasantly -- and ends up getting busted for her granddaughter's pot stash, arrested, and is now facing eviction from her public housing. Under Murphy's guidance, we rewind and replay the scene, with grandma politely but firmly exercising her rights, keeping the cops out of her home, and not going to jail or threatened with losing her home. In a time when police are more aggressive than ever, "10 Rules" is an absolutely necessary corrective, full of folksy -- but accurate -- information. "10 Rules" is the kind of basic primer on your rights that every citizen needs to know, it's well-thought out and well-written, and it not only is it full of critically important information, it's entertaining. Go watch it and learn how to flex your rights. Better yet, watch it together with your friends, your family, or your classmates, then practice putting the rules into effect. Sometimes it's as simple as saying a simple phrase -- "Officer, am I free to go?" Do some role-playing, practice saying the magic words, and "10 Rules" can help you survive any police encounter in better shape than otherwise. When you're done, watch it and practice again -- familiarity is the best help when facing an intimidating police officer staring down at you. We all owe a debt of gratitude to people who feel strongly enough about the rule of law in this country to help others learn how the law protects them and how to protect themselves within the law. A big thank you to the guys at Flex Your Rights is in order. And they would be the first to tell you the best way to thank them is to learn and apply the "10 Rules."

"10 Rules for Dealing with Police" Film Premiere & Webcast

The Washington, DC premiere and live webcast that was cancelled on Feb. 12 has been rescheduled! Flex Your Rights invites you to attend...10 Rules for Dealing with Police FILM PREMIERE! Please join us! A luncheon will follow, and there will be comments from Attorney and 10 Rules Narrator William "Billy" Murphy, Jr. and Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. The event is moderated by Tim Lynch, Director, Project on Criminal Justice, Cato Institute. To register, see: http://www.cato.org/events/100212screening.html
Date: 
Wed, 03/24/2010 - 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Location: 
1000 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States

10 Rules for Dealing with Police Film Premiere & Webcast

Dear friends:

The Washington, DC premiere and live webcast that was cancelled on Feb. 12 has been rescheduled!

Flex Your Rights invites you to attend...

10 Rules for Dealing with Police

FILM PREMIERE!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Noon

(Luncheon to follow)

Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C.

with comments from

William "Billy" Murphy, Jr.
Attorney and 10 Rules Narrator

and
Neill Franklin
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

moderated by
Tim Lynch
Director, Project on Criminal Justice, Cato Institute

If you can make it, please register now. Seating is limited.

If you can't make it to DC, that's okay. You can visit this page to watch the live event.

If you haven't done so yet, pre-order your 10 Rules DVD today for only $15.00. Orders will ship by March 23. (Check out the sexy 2-minute video preview.)

Sincerely,

Steve

 

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

BIG NEWS: The "10 Rules for Dealing with Police" Video is Here!!!

It's here. The "10 Rules for Dealing with Police" DVD. Donate $30 or more and get a free copy mailed within one week.
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From the creators of the classic, Busted: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters (2003), our friends at the group Flex Your Rights are now releasing their new achievement, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. Because StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet) members like you supported Busted, you've earned the first chance to see this important new DVD.

10 Rules for Dealing with Police, a 40-minute educational drama, is the most sophisticated and entertaining film of its kind. Narrated by the legendary trial lawyer William "Billy" Murphy, Jr. (from HBO's The Wire), 10 Rules depicts innocent people dealing with heavy-handed policing tactics used every day in the United States.

Through extensive collaboration with victims of police abuse, legal experts and law enforcement professionals, Flex Your Rights has developed a powerful multi-language (English, Spanish & Arabic) resource that provides proven survival strategies for dealing with racial profiling and police abuse.

Do you know what your rights are if you're stopped by police? Most people don't, and the consequences can be severe. From simple misunderstandings to illegal searches and excessive force, a bad police encounter can happen to anyone. But after watching 10 Rules for Dealing with Police, you'll be more confident and better prepared to handle every kind of police situation.

Get 10 Rules today!

Learn How To...

  • Deal with traffic stops, street stops & police at your door
  • Know your rights & maintain your cool
  • Avoid common police tricks
  • Prevent humiliating searches

Bonus Features

  • 10 Rules for Non-citizens (en Español)
  • Q&A with 10 Rules Creators
  • Spanish & Arabic Subtitles

We still offer Busted on DVD, too. Add $25 to your donation for a total gift of $55 and get both videos: 10 Rules AND Busted. Or get two copies of either DVD for $55. It's your choice. You can also add BOTH of our popular anti-prohibitionist t-shirts for your donation of $100 -- a terrific value while you support the important work of StoptheDrugWar.org. Get yours today!

  

StoptheDrugWar.org is the #1 source for the latest news, information and activism promoting sensible drug law reform and an end to prohibition worldwide. With 1.8 million unique readers in 2009 and with leading news and commentary sources making use of our web site on a regular basis, StoptheDrugWar.org is advancing the drug war debate and growing the drug policy reform movement, helping to start or spark the creation of organizations like Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Flex Your Rights and many others. Our strategy is working, and your generous donation will make a difference during these economically challenging times. Thank you for helping -- we look forward to sending your copy of 10 Rules!

NEW! Drug War Chronicle video review of 10 Rules

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' . ''; ?> StoptheDrugWar.org is the #1 source for the latest news, information and activism promoting sensible drug law reform and an end to prohibition worldwide.

10 Rules testimonials:

"The 4th Amendment has been on life support during both the Bush-Cheney and Obama administrations. The clearest and most constitutionally-grounded guide for all of us against this government contempt for our 4th Amendment rights is 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. It should be shown in schools, in local legislatures and in Congress.
Nat Hentoff

"10 Rules will educate all individuals about how to safely exercise their rights and protect themselves against abusive and illegal police behavior. It should be required viewing in high schools across the country."
Prof. Angela J. Davis, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law & former Director of the DC Public Defender Service, Author, Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor

"Chronic disregard for civil rights is tearing apart the fabric of America. Flex Your Rights has hit the nail on the head in this hard-hitting instructional video."
Mike Gray, Author of The China Syndrome and Drug Crazy

"I believe 10 Rules will make an extraordinary contribution to the cause of social justice. Only those police officers who disregard the law have something to fear from its message. As an ex-cop, I thank Flex Your Rights for all you’ve done and continue to do."
Norm Stamper, Ph.D., Former Chief of the Seattle Police Department & Author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing

"I carefully read through the screenplay for 10 Rules thinking hard about what I would change or how I could contribute. I couldn’t find anything. I think Flex Your Rights has done a masterful job in putting this program together. I look forward to sharing 10 Rules with my students."
Dr. David E. Barlow, Professor and Chair, Department of Criminal Justice, Fayetteville State University & Author of Police in a Multicultural Society

"As the criminal justice system continues to target people of color, 10 Rules is an essential first line of defense. While some elements of our government nationwide still cling to weak denials about profiling, this film provides valuable information that can protect people of color while we insist on long-term solutions to end bias-based policing."
William H. Buckman, William H. Buckman Law Firm (see New York Times profile)

"Good community policing is impossible when officers disrespect constitutional rights. 10 Rules will help citizens understand their rights and ensure that law enforcement is professional and accountable to the public."
Ronald E. Hampton, Executive Director of the National Black Police Association & former Community Police Officer for the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department

"10 Rules will be a valuable teaching tool that can help citizens at all levels -- young and old -- to understand what they’re up against and how to protect themselves during the potentially volatile situation of an unexpected police encounter."
Prof. David A. Harris, Professor of Law and Values, The University of Toledo College of Law, Author of Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work & Good Cops: The Case for Preventive Policing

"I read the 10 Rules screenplay and am thoroughly pleased. It is well written, and I believe it realistically and fairly grasps the issue of racial profiling. Go forward!"
Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, Executive Director, Black Ministers’ Council of New Jersey & Pastor, St. Matthew A.M.E. Church

"10 Rules is an outstanding screenplay that resonates with authenticity, ripples with humor, and draws blood with its pointed examination of law enforcement in our cities. America's urban youth will love this movie, which talks straight and provides crucial, relevant advice on how to use America’s unique Constitutional protections. Two thumbs up."
Eric E. Sterling, Esq., President, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation & Adjunct Lecturer in Sociology, George Washington University

"The law can be complicated, but by mastering The 10 Rules you can increase the chances of protecting your constitutional rights during stressful police encounters."
Nkechi Taifa, Esq., Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Institute

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