"Busted: Drug War Survival Skills From the Buy to the Bust to Begging for Mercy," by M. Chris Fabricant (HarperCollins, 384 pp., $13.95 pb.)
One's first response after finishing the final pages of Washington, DC, defense attorney Chris Fabricant's "Busted" is: "Wow, what a cynical, callous, cold-hearted son of a bitch this guy is." But that's unfair. It is not Chris Fabricant who deserves the list of alliterative pejorative adjectives, but the criminal justice system he is describing. Perhaps the rest of the criminal justice system is a beacon of truth and decency -- somehow I doubt it -- but Fabricant is describing the drug war criminal justice apparatus, and it certainly lives up to its billing as a crime against humanity.
Fabricant goes through all these scenarios and many more. Like a good defense attorney (or South Park's Mr. Mackey), Fabricant makes clear that drugs are bad, m'kay? You shouldn't use them. They are against the law. But, as a defense attorney, Fabricant knows full well millions of this people in this country aren't going to heed his sage advice, and this book is designed to make life more pleasant for those who do use drugs. To that end, he has created his own list of dopers' Ten Commandments:
Thou shalt not deal. Thou shalt not do dope with kiddies. If thou art a kiddy, thou shalt not do dope. Thou shalt not covet more than a misdemeanor buzz. Thou shalt not piss away thy rights. (In other words, shut up and never consent to a search!) Thou shall be calm. Thou shalt not piss off the police. Ye get busted, ye shall never get busted again. Thou shall leave thy dope at home. Know thy friends; mistrust thy enemies. Thou shalt check thy look in the mirror.
"Busted" is full of horror stories about people who broke the commandments. While much of the book is devoted to stopping people from doing that and getting themselves arrested, Fabricant also devotes plenty of space to the hideous consequences of a drug arrest and conviction (which almost always follows), from the anal cavity search to the vomit and shit-filled holding cells to getting your head smashed in (and new charges added) for "resisting arrest." That section makes some particularly glum reading, as Fabricant shows how judges give a thumbs-up to all kinds of police thuggery and brutality under the "resisting arrest" excuse.
He also provides a look at suppression hearings, plea bargains, and trials whose breath-taking cynicism is matched only by the mindless cruelty of the drug war machine at work, relentlessly grinding human beings under its wheels. The title of his chapter on going to trial, "Your Quick and Painful Jury Trial," speaks for itself.
One of Fabricant's more fascinating chapters is "Fighting Your Drug Bust by Rush Limbaugh." No, it isn't really authored by the right-wing radio ranter, but for Fabricant, Limbaugh's aggressive (and well-financed) defense of himself in the face of potential pill-popping and doctor-shopping charges is a case study in how to do it right. While those from the left and some others may think of Limbaugh as a "fascist asshole" or "hillbilly heroin junkie," for Fabricant, the more appropriate sobriquet is "the Guru, the sage, the Drug War Buddha." Limbaugh, says Fabricant, played it smart by: choosing his dope wisely (prescription pills are not viewed as as evil as heroin), protecting his privacy, distancing himself from his dope supply (if only we all had maids to go out and score for us!), going to rehab, hiring talented legal help, abandoning principle, waiting it out, and angling for a deal. Ah, the lessons of Limbaugh.
Despite the book's sometimes flippant tone, Fabricant is extremely well aware that getting busted is a serious, life-changing event -- and not for the better. "Busted" is a veritable harm reduction bible for drug users or people who know and care about drug users. If you fit into one of those categories, you need to buy this book today. Not tomorrow. Not the day after you or your loved one gets busted. Before it's too late.
Oh, and did I mention that it has illustrations by none other than R. Crumb. Ah, to be back in the days of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, when the drug squad was more like Keystone Cops...