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Don’t Consent to Police Searches or Answer Incriminating Questions

Here’s the perfect illustration of how not to handle an encounter with police:

WHEELING -- The Ohio County Sheriff's Department initiated a traffic stop early this morning at the Mount de Chantal Kroger.

After getting permission to search the vehicle, deputies found nearly a half a pound of marijuana, a digital scale, baggies and blunt wraps, along with some cash.

25-year-old Andre Smith of Wheeling, 20-year-old Jeff McGhee of Wheeling and 18-year-old George Oliver were arrested and taken to the Northern Regional Jail.

One of the suspects later admitted to deputies that the marijuana was purchased out-of-state, and he planned to sell it. [WTRF]

Of course, there’s no guarantee that refusing the search will prevent it from happening, but it often will, and if police search you anyway, you’ll at least have a shot at getting the evidence thrown out in court. I’ve discussed this exact issue with dozens of defense attorneys and the answer is always the same: if the suspect refused consent, the charges are frequently dropped.

I recently met a defense attorney from Kansas who called Flex Your Rights to order a copy of our video. Doing criminal defense in Kansas, this guy deals with traffic stop arrests all day every day. The drug war in Kansas is initiated on the highways and then fought out in court, and this lawyer is the guy you want to know if you get jammed up in a traffic stop. He said he gets very few clients who refused consent, and as a result a lot of his work involves negotiating plea bargains for drug cases. On the rare occasion that he gets someone who actually had the presence of mind to refuse the search, they walk. He’s a badass and he knows how to annihilate improperly seized evidence.

Every case is different and police misconduct is a virus, but the bottom line is that giving consent will always destroy you if there’s anything in the car. It’s just that simple. Don’t play their game.

Random Drug Testing Won’t Save the Children From Heroin

Here’s drug czar John Walters shamelessly using a young woman’s death as an opportunity to plug student drug testing:

Heroin killed 19-year-old Alicia Lannes, and her parents say she got the drug from a boyfriend.  Experts say that's how most young kids get introduced to drugs: by friends or relatives.

While teen drug use is declining, Walters says a Fairfax County heroin ring busted in connection with Lannes' death proves it's still a problem.  He supports a federal program used in more than 4,000 schools to randomly drug test students.

"There's no question in my mind had this young woman been in a school, middle school or high school with random testing," said Walters, "She would not be dead today." [FOX DC]

Walters sounds supremely confident, as usual, yet the reality is that random drug testing is often impotent when it comes to discovering heroin use. Student drug testing programs typically rely on urine tests, which can only detect heroin for 3-4 days after use. Only marijuana -- which stays in your system for up to a month – can be effectively detected this way. Thus, random testing actually incentivizes students to experiment with more dangerous drugs like heroin that increase your chances of passing a drug test.

And thanks to the complete failure of the drug war, heroin is stronger today than ever before:

The drug enforcement agency says the purity of heroin found in Virginia is typically higher than usual—making it more deadly.

"They tend not to know how to gauge the strength and they usually take more than they need to," said Patrick McConnel, who oversees Treatment for Youth Services Administration Alcohol and Drug Services.

There are no easy answers here, to be sure, and I don’t claim any monopoly on the solutions to youth drug abuse. But I guarantee you that the problem isn’t our failure to collect more urine from young people. As long as the most dangerous substances continue to be manufactured, distributed, and controlled by criminals, the face of our drug problem will remain the same.

Things are Bad All Over (including the Republic of Georgia)

Things are bad in the drug war here in the US, but they're bad all over. The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union has released another in its series of films on international drug policy, this one detailing mass forced drug testing among other abuses in the Republic of Georgia:

Washington Times Attacks Flex Your Rights

FYR's response to the new random search program on public transportation in DC is continuing to generate media hits, including a negative reaction to our work in The Washington Times. 

The editorial includes factual errors regarding the breadth of the program (amazingly, they didn’t know it includes bus stops) and even accuses Flex Your Rights of endangering public safety. It's revealing that our only opposition got the facts completely wrong. Fortunately, Washington Times published my reply today. Check it out.

It’s not everyday that I get accused of endangering everyone in DC, so you can imagine how amused I am by all of this.

Southeast Asia: Philippines Supreme Court Upholds Drug Testing for Students, Workers, But Not Political Candidates or Criminal Defendants

The Philippines Supreme Court this week upheld mandatory, random, suspicionless drug testing of workers and high school and college students, but struck down as unconstitutional provisions of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that required drug tests for candidates for political office or those charged with criminal offenses.

In a unanimous decision written by Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., the court noted that the law says the random drug testing of employees "shall be undertaken under conditions calculated to protect as much as possible the employee's privacy and dignity," and that employers are not required to report positive test results to prosecutors. It also found that "the intrusion into the employee's privacy... is accompanied by proper safeguards, particularly against embarrassing leakages of test results, and is relatively minimal."

In the case of students, the high court found that drug testing was not only constitutional, but perhaps even necessary. It noted the presence of drugs in the country "that threatens the well-being of the people, particularly the youth and school children who usually end up as victims," adding that, "until a more effective method is conceptualized and put in motion, a random drug testing of students in secondary and tertiary schools is not only acceptable but may even be necessary if the safety and interest of the student population, doubtless a legitimate concern of the government, are to be promoted and protected."

Candidates for political office, however, may not be subjected to drug tests as condition of candidacy, the court held. The drug law's provisions requiring testing of candidates unconstitutionally added to the constitution's provisions defining the qualification or eligibility of candidates, the Supreme Court said.

The court was equally kind to people charged with criminal offenses, holding that they cannot be drug tested because they might incriminate themselves and because drug testing in their cases would not be random or suspicionless. "To impose mandatory drug testing on the accused is a blatant attempt to harness a medical test as a tool for criminal prosecution, contrary to the objectives of RA 9165 [the drug testing law]. Drug testing in this case would violate a person's right to privacy guaranteed under Section 2, Article III of the Constitution. Worse still, the accused persons are veritably forced to incriminate themselves," the opinion declared.

Flex Your Rights Protests Random Searches in D.C.

{Cross-posted from Flex Your Rights}

On Wednesday, Flex Your Rights brought together numerous allies, volunteers and friends to protest random searches on public transportation in the Nation’s Capital. The effort was aimed at voicing opposition to the new search policy, while educating the public about the 4th Amendment right to refuse police searches.

The event generated considerable media attention, including the Washington Post, the Washington CityPaper, and local ABC and NBC affiliates:

Thanks so much to our friends at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition,, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and all the volunteers who came out and made this effort a success.

The constant emergence of new threats to our civil liberties is a difficult thing for any freedom-loving citizen to behold, but this unfortunate event also provided a unique opportunity to educate the public about 4th Amendment rights, and that’s exactly what we did.

Random Searches in Our Nation’s Capital

I’ve got a post at Flex Your Rights about a new random search program that will supposedly protect Washington, DC’s public transit system from terrorism. Of course, anyone found with contraband will be arrested, and you can bet they’ll be finding a lot more bongs than bombs.

As many of you know, I don’t buy into that defeatist "4th Amendment is dead" hyperbole, because that mentality leads people to surrender and start waiving their rights. The greatest threat to the 4th Amendment is the widespread misconception that it’s no longer worth understanding and asserting our rights. People who know their rights get better outcomes during police encounters and that remains true despite anything and everything the wars on drugs and terror have done to undermine our basic freedoms.

So we put together The Citizen’s Guide to Refusing DC Metro Searches. If you live in the DC area, or plan on visiting sometime, you’ll want to check this out.

Press Release: Wed (10/29/08) in Albany: White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda at Summit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 27, 2008 CONTACT: Jennifer Kern, Drug Policy Alliance, (415) 373-7694 White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda at Summit in Albany on October 29 Largest Study, Leading Health Groups Call Random, Suspicionless Drug Testing Harmful and Ineffective ALBANY - The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is conducting a series of regional summits designed to convince local educators to begin drug testing students - randomly and without cause. This policy is unsupported by the available science and opposed by leading experts in adolescent health. The latest summit will be held in Albany on Wednesday, October 29 at the Crown Plaza Albany, State & Lodge Streets from 8:30 am -1:00pm. Studies have found that suspicionless drug testing is ineffective in deterring student drug use. The first large-scale national study on student drug testing, which was published by researchers at the University of Michigan in 2003, found no difference in rates of student drug use between schools that have drug testing programs and those that do not. A two-year randomized experimental trial published last November in the Journal of Adolescent Health concluded random drug testing targeting student athletes did not reliably reduce past month drug use and, in fact, produced attitudinal changes among students that indicate new risk factors for future substance use. "Drug testing breaks down relationships of trust," said Jennifer Kern, Youth Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "All credible research on substance abuse prevention points to eliminating, rather than creating, sources of alienation and conflict between young people, their parents and schools." Random student drug testing is opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Education Association, the Association of Addiction Professionals, and the National Association of Social Workers, among others. These organizations believe random testing programs erect counter-productive obstacles to student participation in extracurricular activities, marginalize at-risk students and make open communication more difficult. "Our schools should stay focused on education, prevention and health, not invasive drug testing programs that have never been proven safe or effective," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "New York students deserve comprehensive, interactive and honest drug education with assistance and support for students whose lives have been disrupted by substance use." A December 2007 policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Abuse and Council of School Health reaffirmed their opposition to student drug testing, holding: "Physicians should not support drug testing in schools ... [because] it has not yet been established that drug testing does not cause harm." Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators are Saying No, published by the Drug Policy Alliance and the American Civil Liberties Union, can be found online at
Albany, NY
United States

South Pacific: DEA Mass Body Search of Plane Passengers Spurs Angry Reaction in Marianas

Lawmakers and travel industry spokesmen on the island of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, are furious with the DEA over an October 4 incident where the agency conducted a mass body search of passengers arriving on a charter jet from China. Tourism officials have apologized to China over the incident, the local congress has passed a resolution condemning the searches, and in the latest reverberation, the Marianas government has pulled its police from the local DEA task force.
Northern Mariana Islands (map from
The Marianas, formally known as the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), is a US territory situated roughly three-quarters of the way to Australia from Hawaii. The islands have a population of about 80,000 and rely heavily on tourism.

The October 4 incident occurred in the pre-dawn hours when a Shanghai Airlines charter flight arrived at Saipan International Airport. Acting on what it said was a tip about drugs on the flight, the DEA subjected 147 of 187 arriving passengers -- all Chinese nationals -- to intensive body searches. The agents forced passengers into a small room, then forced them to remove their clothing to be searched. No drugs were found, although the DEA reported it had seized some contraband plant and animal items.

Many of the passengers were outraged by their treatment and reported it to their government. They also vowed never to return to the CNMI again. That had local officials scrambling to undo the harm.

"I want to let you know that my administration is extremely displeased with the manner in which this activity was conducted," said Gov. Benigno Fitial in an October 10 letter to the tour company and hotel involved in the deal that brought the Chinese tourists to Saipan. "We did not approve of this and do not support such treatment of visitors to our islands."

That same day, Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio sent a similar letter to the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles. "We hope that this regrettable and isolated incident does not alter your affection for the CNMI and its people," Tenorio said.

Late last week, still fuming over the DEA's actions and unresponsiveness, the CNMI House of Representatives passed a strongly worded resolution demanding that the US Department of Justice investigate the mass search. The resolution also called for the department to inform China that the DEA -- not local customs or immigration officials -- was responsible for the searches.

"The House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands hereby calls for a full and complete investigation into the activities and the causes of those activities that led to an episode at the Francisco C. Ada Saipan International Airport that embarrassed and degraded honored guests of the Northern Mariana Islands and may have violated their civil rights," stated the resolution.

"These searches, and the abhorrent treatment of the passengers subjected to it, caused extreme embarrassment, discomfort, fear, and a feeling of perverse violation to the affected tourists and other guests of the Commonwealth," the resolution said. It also called the searches "harsh and irrational" and said they had caused irreparable harm "to the reputation of the Commonwealth and to the psyches of the victims of this demeaning episode."

And that's the watered down version. After Federal Relations Committee Chair Diego Benavente expressed concern over harsh language, the House voted to remove a provision of the resolution containing the phrase "multiple fondling of the passengers' private parts."

The fall-out continued this week. The CNMI Department of Public Safety announced Monday that it was pulling four Saipan police officers from the DEA Northern Marianas task force. That comes just days after the CNMI withdrew six other police officers and one customs officer from the task force. That withdrawal will be in effect until the DEA provides a complete explanation of the October 4 incident, government officials said.

At this point, the government of the CNMI doesn't seem to care much what impact the withdrawal will have on the DEA's work. When asked if the pull-out would hamper DEA operations, a police spokesman replied only, "That remains to be seen."

ONDCP Random Student Drug Testing Summit

There is no cost to attend the summit but, because space is limited, people are encouraged you to register as soon as possible at or send an email to or call (703) 312-5220 if you have additional questions. AGENDA 8:30 - 9:00 a.m. Registration 9:00 - 9:05 a.m. Welcome and Introductions 9:05 - 9:25 a.m. Opening Remarks 9:25 - 9:45 a.m. Presentation: Legal History/Current Legal Issues 9:45 - 10:15 a.m. Presentation: Current Drug Testing Technology 10:15 - 11:00 p.m. Presentation: Developing a Student Drug Testing Policy 11:00 - 11:15 a.m. Break 11:15 - 11:45 p.m. Presentation: Student Assistance Programs - Help When It's Needed 11:45 - 12:15 p.m. Panel: Success Stories from Local Local Programs 12:15 - 12:30 p.m. Presentation: The Student Drug Testing Institute - Support for Schools that Drug Test 12:30 - 12:50 p.m. Q&A 12:50 - 1:00 p.m. Closing Remarks
Wed, 10/29/2008 - 9:30am - 2:00pm
State and Dodge Street
Albany, NY 12207
United States

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