Florida is a large State, oriented primarily north and south. There are but three practical ways to drive from anywhere in the country to South Florida, and from South Florida to just about anyplace else. Two out of three of those roadways, the Turnpike and I-95, will take you through both MARTIN and ST. LUCIE COUNTIES, and will almost guarantee you will be stopped, (either legally or illegally), then detained, (either legally or illegally), and then searched, (either legally or illegally) by a member of a law enforcement “interdiction task force”.
The reason your likelihood of getting detained by law enforcement is much higher when traveling through MARTIN AND ST. LUCIE counties, is that despite the burgeoning national consensus that cannabis is at worse a benign ‘controlled substance’ and perhaps a palliative or even curative one, Martin and St. Lucie Counties continue to foster the “Drug War” through an aggressive effort at marijuana “interdiction”.
FACT: Both counties routinely create situations where their agents will attempt to find a reason—any reason, to search your car.
FACT: A Law enforcement officer’s claim that he can smell 1.5 grams of cannabis, in a glassine bag, wrapped in tin foil, placed and sealed in a small ‘tupperware’ dish, and then stuffed into the bottom of your backpack or luggage, is sufficient to allow law enforcement to search every inch of the interior of your vehicle.
FACT: Several times each year, (typically at the beginning and end of tourist season (and during Spring Break) Martin and St. Lucie County Sheriff’s deputies, in conjunction with State and Federal ‘drug cops’, engage in these behaviors.
May 5, 2016: 75 citizens arrested over 3 consecutive days.
May 20, 2016: 20 citizens arrested over two (2) nights.
December 14,2015: 65 citizens arrested in 3 day ‘operation’.
The list goes on.
Rather than raising the white flag, and admitting that the “War on Drugs” is a complete and miserable failure, Martin and St. Lucie Counties apparently have concluded that keeping the jails full and the county’s coffers bulging with dollars is a far preferable result.
They resort to various “games” and trickery designed to permit law enforcement to stop and search your car. For example, they occasionally post signs along the roadway, near an isolated exit ramp, which state “ALL DRUGS SEIZED”, and “BE PREPARED TO STOP”.
The constabulary then wait in groups at the end of the exit ramp, and as cars exit the expressway off ramp (presumptively, the gendarmes assume) to avoid going through the ‘drug stop area’, they find a reason to execute a traffic stop. Egregious violations like “tail light out”; “tint too dark”; “failure to come to full and complete stop”; “failure to utilize a turn-signal”; “weaving within the lane”; “failure to maintain a single lane”, and traveling at 48 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone— are all part of the program.
And if they do not observe any such violations, some members of law enforcement merely claim that they have observed some minor traffic violation—-these are the same ‘public servants’ who likely will claim to smell a minor amount of ‘raw’ cannabis, when in reality there is no such smell—so that they will have a legal “excuse” to base their subsequent unlawful search.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?????
First, you can educate yourself on police tactics, both legal and extra-legal, when engaging in these “interdiction” efforts. A good starting place is www.nevergetbusted.com. Former Texas Lawman Barry Cooper, in easy-to-watch free videos, will educate you on all of the subtleties and tricks utilized by Law enforcement in conducting these ‘operations’. He knows them, because he utilized them, and to great success, when busting scores of citizens traveling the highways of the ‘Longhorn State’. (Former Officer Cooper is no longer engaged in law enforcement, and is an outspoken and aggressive advocate in favor of the unfettered and unrestrained use of cannabis, as well as advocating for unrestrained liberty interests for all citizens.)
NGB can also educate you on the ways to transport cannabis in relative safety.
If you are “lit up” by the cops, don’t make it easy for them. Pull over without delay, using your indicator, and in a controlled and safe manner. Put on your interior light, place your hands at 10 and 2 o’clock on the steering, wheel, and leave them there. If they engage you in any conversation other than producing relevant documents, or the reason for the traffic stop, DO NOT ENGAGE. One can be polite, courteous, and NON-COOPERATIVE simultaneously. Do just that.
If they ask you to search the vehicle—-politely yet firmly tell them “NO”.
They will then likely ‘threaten’ to bring the “drug dog”. LEO’s have the right to do that. They do not have the right to detain you any longer that it takes for them to issue a traffic citation for whatever claimed violation they have observed. If they take longer than necessary to obtain the dog, they will NOT be able to use any evidence obtained against you, and the case ultimately will be abandoned by the Government. That result will be due to a Judge’s order.
The most important thing to remember is, Do Not Engage the police agent in any confrontational way, shape, manner or form while on the roadway. Remember—-you are playing on his or her “home turf”. And experienced cops know and understand how to use that home field to their full advantage. So avoid arguing, lecturing about Constitutional rights, sharing your understanding of what the law allows and requires. Don’t offer any spontaneous statements, and only answer questions as described above.
Because no matter what happens in a citizen-police encounter……the playing field will CHANGE. Sooner or later, that same police agent will be facing you on YOUR ‘home field’, i.e., in a Courtroom, with competent Counsel at your side. And the ‘house-odds’ will begin to play to your advantage.
If, for whatever reason or claimed justification, you end up in custody, your attitude should not change. If you are asked any substantive questions, (i.e., name, address, biographical information is o.k. to provide), then your response should be NOTHING other than “I insist my Attorney be present before any questioning”.
“I insist on my Attorney being present before any questioning.”
“I insist on my Attorney being present before any questioning.”
Commit it to memory, and don’t deviate from that position. It may feel uncomfortable saying, but it is far more comfortable than dealing with a protracted legal proceeding, and a drug conviction for a misdemeanor or a felony, which could well adversely and profoundly impact you for the remainder of your life.
Once at the Martin County or St. Lucie County Jail (a.k.a. “The Rock”), BOND OUT WITHOUT DELAY. Under no circumstances wait until “First Appearance” the following morning, in hopes of being released on a reduced bond or a personal promise to appear. In our bucolic little hamlet, the first appearance Judge is just as likely to increase your bond, or add additional onerous conditions to your release, e.g., curfews, travel restrictions, supervision by “pre-trial services”, GPS bracelets, and SCRAM bracelets— this routinely occurs, even on misdemeanor arrests, in these counties.
Your next priority is to find competent, experienced and properly credentialed Counsel—again without delay. We have learned over time that there exists a direct and positive relationship between the time it takes for one to obtain counsel, and the ultimate result in the case. It is a simple formula: THE EARLIER YOU HAVE COMPETENT COUNSEL ON BOARD; THE BETTER THE ULTIMATE RESULT.
Martin and St. Lucie Counties may choose not to accept commonly held values about cannabis— but don’t be victimized by these local arcane governments, who gladly would give up your individual liberty interests in favor of increasing tax revenues, and providing multi-million dollar budgets for law enforcement agencies and jails.
There are approximately two (2) million Americans in Federal, State and local prisons—about ½ of them for non-violent, drug related crimes. That is far too many for a country that maintains it is dedicated to preserving individual liberties and freedom. Now that you know the local rules—there is no need to add to the number of wrongfully imprisoned.