I was walking out of the Fry’s Electronics on the North Freeway in Harris County on a Friday afternoon when I noticed someone near my vehicle. I assumed it was some fans taking selfies. People often approach me and ask to take a photo or a selfie of the Houston NORML Escalade and I always give them the “ok” along with some educational literature. As I get closer, I notice two police officers peering into the windows. They had pulled up in a civilian vehicle and parked it directly behind me to block me in.
I casually walk up with my shopping cart and say hello. One of the officers asks me if this is my vehicle and I said yes, smiled, and asked him what was the reason for our encounter. He said “go ahead and load up.” Of course the officer wanted me to open the back to load in my items because he wanted to glance around in there. I wasn’t worried because I knew I didn’t have anything on me (I never do). I decided to go ahead and load in my items as quickly as possible and then lock the vehicle. As I was loading in my items the officer, later to be identified as Deputy B.A. Collier with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, said “I saw some shake on your floor up there.”
Is this officer really going to stoop so low as accuse me of having “shake” in my vehicle in order to pursue an investigation? (“shake” is a slang term for finely ground cannabis or marijuana crumbs).
Cops will often claim to see shake in order to manufacture probable cause.
So I turned around, smiled, quickly closed the back of the vehicle, locked the door, looked Deputy Collier in the eyes and chuckled.
“What’s shake?” I asked.
“Marijuana” the officer responded. “I saw some pieces of marijuana on your passenger side floor board up there.”
Then he continued to drill me about marijuana. He said, “you know why your vehicle drew our suspicion, right?”
“Are you saying you profiled me because of my political views expressed on my vehicle?”
“It’s not about politics,” he said. “It’s about marijuana, and people who like marijuana are most-likely marijuana users, and marijuana is an illegal substance in Texas.”
“So I’m being harassed because of my beliefs?” I asked him. “I’ve had these stickers on my vehicle for over a year and have never been harassed by police until now.”
I told him that I didn’t understand the reason for the encounter and politely asked him “Am I free to go?”
It’s important when dealing with police encounters to always answer the officer’s question with a question.
For example if the officer asks “Where are you going today?” you can respond by asking “Why did you pull me over?”
It’s also important to understand the nature of the encounter. Why are the police interacting with you? Anytime you are interacting with a uniformed police officer you should consider yourself under investigation. Don’t answer any questions. The only information the officer is entitled to get from you is your Driver’s License, so if they ask to see your license, give it to them. Be pleasant and respectful but politely and firmly assert your rights. You don’t have to answer any questions. Politely ask to end the interaction. “Am I free to go?”
“No,” the officer said. He insisted that I was not being harassed or profiled and asked if I had anything illegal in the vehicle. I just laughed and said “Of course not.”
He then asked me “So what’s that shake I saw on your floor up there? If it’s not marijuana, what is it?”
“I don’t know, crumbs from my lunch?” I responded.
“Do you mind if we take a look inside the vehicle?” Deputy Collier asked.
When dealing with a traffic stop or other police encounter, never consent to let the officer search your vehicle. Never.
Even if you are 100% positive there is nothing illegal in the vehicle. DO NOT let the officer search it. The government has no business rummaging through our personal belongings without probable cause that we have broken the law.
The 4th amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects from unreasonable searches and seizures.
So if you are ever asked this question, regardless of whether or not you’re ridin’ dirty, repeat after me: “I don’t consent to searches”
The officer then started talking about how he had “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion” when I heard these things I knew immediately that the vehicle was going to be searched without my consent.
Even if you believe the officer may have probable cause, don’t consent to the search. If the government decides to search your vehicle without your consent, comply. Don’t argue. Do what the officer says and verbally reiterate that the search is being conducted without your consent. It also helps to use your camera phone. You have every right to video record your interaction with a police officer. When I knew the officer was going to conduct a search I immediately pulled out my phone and started recording.
“Through your tint, it looks like marijuana buds” really? Turns out, what the officer was looking at was crumbs from Chex Mix that my son was snacking on in the front seat the day before. Here’s a photograph of what the officer thought was “marijuana buds.”
Here’s the bag of Chex Mix in the driver’s side door panel.
“Am I free to go?” I asked again.
“Not yet, we have to make sure you don’t have any warrants.”
At this point, I’m starting to get irritated, so I start chatting with the officer about how I’m being profiled, harassed, he’s wasting my time, I have a business to run, etc. Because the officers were in a civilian vehicle, they couldn’t just check for warrants on their computer, they had to radio it in. This took forever. I literally waited there for over 30 minutes.
“Do you really believe you’re doing something good for the community right now?” I asked. “What if that had been marijuana shake?” I asked. “How long have you been a police officer?” I asked.
Officer B.A. Collier claimed to have been an officer with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office for over 8 years. He said he believes he is doing something good for the community because “marijuana is bad, people have been killed over marijuana.”
Yeah, people have been killed because it’s illegal, people have been killed by their own government, kidnapped, sexually assaulted, extorted, imprisoned, and have had their children taken away from them by their own government, because it’s illegal, because of people like Deputy B.A. Collier enforcing these unjust and absurd laws. And going to ridiculous lengths and stretches of the imagination, spending over 30 minutes, to try and find enough marijuana to arrest a person.
And his parking lot buddy, the other officer (I didn’t catch his name), didn’t say a word. He just stood there with his hand on his taser in case I got out of line.
Just be aware folks, until we can successfully change these unjust laws, prohibition is still alive and well in Texas and still heavily enforced. While policies have improved here recently, there are still plenty of ignorant police officers out there. Be careful.