Articles Posted in War on Drugs

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Whether you measure you favorite chemical indulgences in grams or ounces you need to take some basic cell phone safety precautions. First, a disclaimer, a warrant and a dedicated forensic technologist can find pretty much anything on your IOS or Android device (Blackberries are the most secure phones available, but who wants to use a grandpa phone with real buttons?). But, with the right settings/apps/common sense you may be able to get through most traffic stops and common police encounters without getting yourself or your friends in more trouble than the initial detention.

How does a law enforcement officer (let’s call him LEO) use cell phone data? The most common way is when you are arrested and the officer just picks the phone up and starts reading your texts to see who your dealer/connect/reup is. The officer may also answer your phone or send texts to try and generate some more offenses/arrests. Now the Supreme Court has held that cell phone data is protected and the police must have a warrant to search your phone, but Constitutional protections tend to find exceptions (we have a drug war to fight, and most judges are on the side of the Government), also most snitch deals are never seen in court and LEO may look at your phone anyway just to see who is in your network of friends without intending to use the evidence in court. On to the tips.

On to the rules-

One of the most frustrating aspects of criminal defense work is the double standards that abound between what we expect of government (cops and prosecutors) and what expect of citizens. Which leads us to the case of the day…..

Today’s SCOTUS disaster is Heien vs. North Carolina. The issue was- Can the police detain you for something that is not illegal, if the police “reasonably believe” you have broken the law?

The answer is a resounding 8-1/”Holy shit what happened to the liberal justices?!”/”Hell YES they can!” ruling.

My first job out of law school was as a public defender in Wichita Falls. Inmates often lack a technical understanding of the law, but they have a very pragmatic understanding of what it takes to get out now. I was asked often about 12.44(a) and (b) deals to help these indigent defendants get out of jail. Most people are not familiar with these provisions, but they are important to anyone considering a plea offer.

First, a drug war rant. Texas has some of the worst drug laws in the nation. We have a special state jail unit that was invented to warehouse small time (less than one gram) drug users. State jail has no parole possibility, so no one wants to go there, and it’s super expensive to warehouse them once they get there.

Guess what? Drugs won the drug war, and in spite of our state’s drug laws people still use meth and coke and heroin etc. So we have some laws in place to somewhat correct this horrible policy failure and provide a way to keep from sending even more people to state jail and wasting more tax dollars. 12.44(a) and (b) serve that purpose.

Eric Holder has given a tentative green light for State recreational marijuana programs to go forward. Given how the last medical marijuana memo has been largely ignored, I’m still a little pessimistic the DOJ will really leave these States alone. Regardless, here are ten reasons Texas should take this opportunity to reform our State’s marijuana laws. As a reminder, possession of any usable amount of marihuana is a 180-days-in-county-jail misdemeanor in Texas. I know, we are insane about weed in the Lone Star State, but it doesn’t have to be this way. On to the list.

1. Willie Nelson. Are we really going to keep arresting Willie? Really? What kind of asshole arrests Willie Nelson for pot. If this was my only reason, it would be enough.

2. It’s safer than booze. Texans drink a lot. Booze kills people. Weed can’t kill you.

As part of the my ongoing open records work I requested the racial profiling data for our local DPS office. I received a breakdown of stops, citations, and searches by race/ethnicity for all stops in Kaufman county for the first 6 months of the year. Texas law requires the recording of this data, which anyone can ask for. Check out my open records 101 guide for a how to.

Let’s look at the data shall we. 13-2328 (13-06-25) letter to requestor.pdf

In the first 6 months of 2013 there were 7,312 total traffic stops by DPS in Kaufman County. 4,744 of those stops had white drivers, 1,685 had black drivers, and 439 had hispanic drivers. Asian, Indian, and “Other” are the remaining choices. I’m assuming Indian means Native American, but who knows.

Tom Pauken is running for Governor of Texas. He’s nearly identical to Greg Abbott in every way, except Greg Abbott has a lot more money. Tom’s trying to differentiate himself so he recently took to Facebook to tout himself as a supporter of veterans.

Tom was asked if he would support allowing veterans to use medical marijuana, or if he wanted to continue to have them arrested. At first Tom just deleted the comments. (He banned me from his page and removed all my comments).

Finally Tom’s inability to answer this question became really embarrassing so he let loose fired off the answer below. Now remember what the question was; Tom Pauken, who allegedly really loves veterans, was asked if should we arrest veterans who use medical marijuana. Tom’s answer-

Our State’s highest criminal court recently reversed a marijuana conviction out of Kaufman County Court at Law 2, just in time for 4/20. Whenever I discuss marijuana prohibition I always mention how much court time, prosecutor time, appointed lawyer time, police time and tax dollars we waste we waste prosecuting cannabis cases like this one.

It can take years for a case to move form arrest to appeal, and the whole time you are footing the bill so that the criminal justice system can have something to do (besides prosecute real crime that is). Marijuana prohibition is like an evil version of the WPA. Which reminds me, our lege is in session, so why not call your rep and ask them to support bills like this?

Enough editorializing, on to the case, our case of the day is Abney vs State.

Like many suburban Texans I was brought up in a Republican household. The first two political books I ever read were written by Rush Limbaugh. As a young adult I had not heard of libertarianism, but I did hear a lot of rhetoric from the right that I liked; limited government, liberty etc.

I found myself more and more confused at how Republicans supported policies that were the definition of Big Government- drug wars, bans on gay marriage, sodomy laws, blue laws, pornography prosecutions etc. Logically, I could not understand how a political party could espouse limited government and support for the war on drugs in the same platform? How can you be against Obamacare because you oppose big government and against gay marriage? The cognitive dissonance must be overwhelming.

I stumbled upon the answer about a year ago when I read “The Republican Brain” by Chris Mooney. The answer, authoritarianism. Wikipedia can explain this better than I can. Why not copy and paste?

Forney has two online media outlets (TheForneyPost.net, and InForney.com) reporting the happenings in this growing exurb. I have been surprised to see how much copy each site devotes to coverage of local drug busts.

The stories themselves are largely formulaic; we get a mugshot, the government’s version of events, and sometime a nice pic of dope on the table for emphasis. I often wonder if the public sees these busts and thinks that something has been accomplished; that by arresting this one drug user or drug dealer we’ve made the world safer, or made some dent in the local narcotics market. The frequency of these arrests may be news to the public, but it’s old hat for anyone involved in the Kaufman County criminal justice system.

I’ve been here for 8 years, and we’ve been arresting suppliers and consumers the entire time. I can tell you that the net effect on supplies of controlled substances in Kaufman County is zero. Drugs are still readily available to meet the demand of our local consumers.

Here’s a paragraph that makes my libertarian blood boil.

So, while the initial stop itself was illegal (emphasis mine), Grijalva never went beyond the bounds of what would have been constitutionally permissible had the stop in fact been justified at its inception. Under these circumstances, applying the law, as we have explicated it in this opinion, to the undisputed facts of the case in our de novo review, we conclude that the behavior of the arresting officers, although clearly unlawful at the outset, was not so particularly purposeful and flagrant that the discovery of the appellee’s outstanding arrest warrants may not serve to break the causal connection between the illegal stop and the discovery of the ecstasy in the appellee’s pants pocket, thus purging the primary taint.

The cops acted illegally, but that’s ok. Ugh.

Today’s case of the day is Mazuca vs. State, from El Paso.

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