Monday

Your Rights As A Marijuana Consumer

  With all of the recent legal issues cropping up around the medical marijuana community it's important to understand your legal rights. So The 420 Shack is here to help you understand how to stay out of jail.
 
Your Constitutional Rights
 

We're going to get started with a brief summary of what your constitutional rights are and how to effectively assert your rights if confronted with a police situation.

This is what the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Part of the Fifth Amendment states:

"No person shall be... compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...." 

 The Fourth and Fifth amendments are the very foundation of our rights. They protect U.S. citizens from intrusive law. If an officer were to violate your rights, and because of that violation, found some incriminating evidence, that evidence would have to be thrown out in court. A motion to suppress, is what it is called, and needs to be filed with the trial judge. Occasionally officers will use a defective warrant, or a warrant not supported by any probable cause. If that becomes the case, then any evidence found in the course of the search cannot be used against you. Once again the evidence needs to be suppressed.

1. Don't Leave Marijuana Or Pieces Out
Police officers have to obtain a warrant before they can do any kind of intrusive search. However, any weed, pipes, bongs, joints, or anything incriminating that can be plainly seen by any person from a "non-intrusive vantage point" is subject to confiscation. Not only will you get your stash jacked by the cops, and your pieces smashed in front of you, but an arrest and a valid warrant to search the rest of the area is pretty much the next thing that is going to happen. Don't leave your bag out after you roll a joint, keep the pipe passing around the circle, and don't set it out when you're done, put it away. Roaches? Toss em deep in the trash or hide em well for later. Often it's something really minute that gets you busted.
2. Don't Give Permission To Consent
The vast majority of people arrested on marijuana charges could have avoided arrest, if they had just chosen to exercise their fourth amendment rights. If you are stopped at any given point in time by an officer, and they ask for your permission to search your person, or your vehicle, or your premises, you do not have to consent. Simply tell the officer  "I am choosing to exercise my Fourth Amendment Rights, I do not consent and i don't want to answer any questions. If I am not under arrest, I would like to go now" 
Normally if an officer is asking for your permission it's because, either the officer doesn't have enough evidence to obtain a search warrant, or they don't feel like going through the hassle of obtaining one.
Police officers are trained to be able to intimidate people into consenting to searches. They will pressure you, they might even scare you a little, but what's scarier? Going to jail! If you consent, and allow the the search, then that is you  waiving your constitutional protection. The officers will search, and seize any weed, pipes, bongs, ashtrays with weed ash, empty pill bottles or other containers with red hair residue, they will literally get everything they can possibly find, and they can do all of that without further authorization. If they find anything? You will be arrested.
 So, now you understand the circumstances! If you choose to not consent to a search here's what will happen.
The police officer requesting the search has to either release you, and detain you and attempt to get a valid search warrant. The fact you didn't consent does not give the officer grounds to obtain a warrant or detain you for any length of time. Remember, search warrants can only be obtained from a judge or magistrate, and only if the officer has "Probable Cause." Probable cause requires an officer to give fact based information that would cause a reasonable person to believe that a crime has been, or is currently, being committed and that evidence of the involvement of the crime can be found within the search.
 There are some exceptions to the search warrant requirement, but only under special circumstance, and for any casual medical marijuana user, you do not fall into those special circumstances.

3. Remain Silent, Until Your Attorney Is Present
We've all seen a movie, or a TV show, where when someone was arrested, they were read their Miranda Rights. There is a reason for this. Anything you say to officers, reporters, write on the facebook, text your friends, all of it can be used against you in a court of law. When speaking to an officer, you have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. Your right to remain silent should always be exercised. The best part? You have the right to remain silent even when you are not being arrested. If an officer is badgering you with questions, you don't have to answer a single thing! Exercise your right to not incriminate yourself, that's what the Fifth Amendment protects us from. Simply ask the officer questioning you if you are under arrest, if you are not, state you are exercising your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and ask if you can leave, otherwise you will need to call for an attorney.
...Are you starting to realize that your rights are kind of like monopoly get out of jail free cards? GOOD!

4. Ask If You Can Leave
This may seem like a no-brainer, but we have to say it again. At any time you are being detained, or questioned by an officer, whether he pulled you over in your car, or stopped you on foot. You have the option to terminate your encounter with them. All you have to do is ask "Am I under arrest, or being detained?" 
If the answer is "No" then you can take off. An officer can only detain you temporarily without arrest, if they have reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity. Remember at a later date, that officer will have to give the judge objective facts that would cause a reasonable person to suspect criminal activity was taking place.

5. Be Non-Violent
Do not physically resist. There are times when politely asserting your rights still won't stop an officer from proceeding to detain, search, and even arrest you. If this happens, it is important not to physically resist. Rather, you should reassert your rights.  Also, the officer may perform a pat down or frisk search on you, during the detention, if he has reasonable suspicion that you are armed. However, an officer may only reach into your pockets if he pats something that feels like a weapon.

6. Ratting On Your Dealer/Friends Isn't The Best Idea
The officers, and sometimes prosecutors, will try and pressure people into providing information that can incriminate others, and lead to their arrest. Threats of your prosecution if you don't turn over your source of marijuana, promises to let you off without any penalties if you just tell them whose pot it was under the back seat, or any other kind of threats or promises made by them need to be taken with caution. Remember that any information you divulge can be used against you in the court of law. It's a risk with your life hanging in the balance. You should consult a criminal defense attorney before making committing to any deals. Also, for those who use marijuana illegally without a physicians recommendation, ratting out a dealer could be dangerous, and possibly, even have a violent backlash.

Finally, consider downloading and carrying NORML's Freedom Card -- a quick reference guide to your rights and obligations when you are stopped by the police. You can print it out and keep it with you in your purse or wallet, and toss an extra in your glove compartment. Print em and give em to friends.

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