In which I perform a public service

I am back in Auburn for the next couple weeks — visiting my folks while also taking in the Tractatapalooza that Kelly and Arata are putting on (today - March 5, at the Museum of Art), and also dropping some science for the Molinari Society panel on Spontaneous Order, which will be at the Austrian Scholars Conference 2011 (March 10-12, at the Mises Institute).[1] Since I generally avoid flying these days, and Greyhound over that distance is too long to be workable, getting to Auburn meant renting a car, and a long drive, mostly along I-40, from Las Vegas to Alabama.

While I was in Texas, I was stopped on a flimsy excuse, detained, interrogated, and subjected to a long forced search of my car by two cops from the Texas Highway Patrol.

I am fine: I was not arrested, not ticketed, and nothing was seized; at the end of the day, aside from a paper warning, I ended up with nothing other than an annoying delay, an attempt at a petty humiliation, and a sad reminder of the sort of random-sweep police state tactics that are routinely used, with the minutest of ritual gestures at a sort of farce on due process, against people who are often legally innocent, who are suspected on the most unreasonable of suspicions and detained on the most specious of pretexts, and who, even if they are legally at risk, are almost never morally guilty of threaten the rights or liberties of any identifiable human victim whatever. I am awfully lucky in a couple of respects, and the sad fact is that many people are subjected to this kind of thing who come away from it a lot worse, even though they are no less innocent than I was.

I didn’t have much at hand to record what was going on, and I had a long drive ahead of me, so bear in mind that this is all written from memory, and the location is an estimate. Because there was no escalation of legal threats against me, I just got on my way as quickly as possible and did not take down the details or the detaining officers’ names.

I had stopped for the night in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and in the morning I set out along I-40 into Texas, towards Amarillo. About half an hour past the state border, near Vega, a black Highway Patrol SUV pulled onto the road behind me and followed me in the left lane. The posted speed limit was 70 mph, and at the time I was driving on cruise control at about 75 or 77mph or so. Since my speed was so close to the posted limit, I wasn’t sure whether the cops intended to pull me over or just wanted to pass me and drive up the road, so at the next opportunity I signaled and shifted over to the right hand lane, then slowed down to 70mph even. The patrol car did not get over or flash their lights, but did not pass me either, and continued driving in the left lane just a little behind me or to the side of me for several miles. (We passed by at least one exit.) There’s no way to know for sure, but in retrospect I wouldn’t be surprised he was hanging back to see if he could catch me in a traffic violation that would provide a stronger pretext for the stop. Finally he got tired of waiting for me to change lanes without a signal or whatever; he slowed down again, shifted into the right lane behind me, and flashed their lights; I pulled onto the shoulder, took out my wallet and waited with my hands on the steering wheel.

Not the actual police who rifled through my car, but close enough that you get the idea.

Now the first state trooper gets out of his SUV, in the usual Texas Highway Patrol silly-suit. I didn’t ask for a name, so we’ll call him Cowboy Hat. Cowboy Hat tells me he pulled me over for driving a little fast; I said sorry about that, handed him my driver’s license, and when he asked for proof of insurance I told him that the car was a rental and handed him the rental contract. Cowboy Hat asked where I was going and I said Alabama; he thought about this for a minute and then decided to have me step out of the car, then sit down on the passenger side in the Cowboy-mobile while he typed things up on his computer. He then began asking more questions, mostly about things that were none of his business (where I worked, what I did, how I could take a two-week vacation from my job to visit my family, why I live in Las Vegas, what my wife does there, where my luggage was, why I rented a car to drive out of town, etc.) When he began repeating questions that were already asked and answered, changing subject seemingly at random, and peppering them with questions about my history with the law — if I had any warrants out, if I’d ever been in trouble, it became clear that he was using the standard cop procedure to try to put me off guard and work up an answer that would help him gin up some reasonable suspicion. Then Cowboy Hat came around directly to asking if I had any drugs in the car. Nope. Any guns? Nope. Any cocaine? Nope. Any marijuana? Nope. I should have forgotten about trying to get back on the road quickly, and just trusted my instincts earlier that this was where the whole thing was going and simply said that he had my identification and I would not answer any more questions without an attorney. This wouldn’t have changed my situation with him any — it was clear enough by now that he was going to do anything he could to get to a search of the car, but it would have made me feel better and relieved me of having to try to explain my business to a belligerent armed stranger who believes that it is his job to try to trip up, manipulate and lie to the Suspect Individuals he forces off the road.

In any case, at this point Cowboy Hat wrapped up by asking me if he could look in the trunk. I told him, calmly, Not without a warrant. The dramatic irony here is that I knew there was in fact nothing at all in the trunk — literally nothing, not even my underwear; just the rental company’s spare tire and jack. I had no drugs or guns to find anywhere in the car, and I had left all my luggage plainly visible in the back seat. But I do not believe in allowing police to search me or anything of mine without a warrant. I value my privacy, and I do not believe in giving government police any latitude to harass or humiliate random people off the street. (There is in any case no possible legal benefit to helping out the police in their efforts to search, seize or question; you may as well make them work for it.)

To his partial credit, Cowboy Hat didn’t go out of his way to try and further bully or intimidate me after that. (I’d say he was polite, but of course there is no way to be polite to someone when you’ve used coercion to pull them off the road, while they are minding their own business, and interrogated them about a lot of things which are none of your business.) He simply said that he was giving me a warning for the speed, and he would be calling a canine unit to do an open-air search with a drug sniffing dog. I shrugged and waited in the SUV. While we were waiting for the handler and the dog to arrive, Cowboy Hat suggestively informed me that I seemed a bit nervous, as if he meets a lot of people every day who love to be pulled over and interrogated by highway police.

After a very short time — maybe 2 or 3 minutes at most — another SUV comes down the highway and pulls over onto the shoulder. Another cowboy hat gets out — we’ll call him Officer Friendly with what looks like a golden retriever. They then commence to engage in the Supreme Court-approved method of ginning up Probable Cause for a warrantless forced search when you don’t have any; it looks something like this. Officer Friendly jogs all the way around the car with the dog at a run. Then at a slightly slower pace he directs the dog over to the car, pulls back a little on the leash to get the dog to jump up and stick its face at the door or window, and jogs down a bit to the next part of the car. When it’s jumping up at the passenger-side front door the same way it jumped up at the other doors, the dog paws at the door a bit. They come back around and do the same trick again. I guess this is signalling. Of course, this is odd, since I know that there are no drugs in the car. There are, however, food from breakfast and wrappers from some gas-station snacks in the front seat.

Officer Friendly comes over to talk to Cowboy Hat for a minute then turns to me to ask whether there are any illegal drugs in the car. Nope. Any guns? Nope. Cowboy Hat then informs me that the dog signaled and that he is going to search the car. The passenger-side window was rolled down to talk to him when he first made the stop, so he goes over and unlocks the car at that door, then starts rifling through my stuff in the front seat and the back seat while I sit in the SUV and wait. Officer Friendly comes by, I guess to watch me.

He’s a chatty fellow and tries to talk. I guess it’s possible he was doing a Good Cop/Bad Cop thing in tandem with Cowboy Hat to try to get more information or check my story, but I don’t think he had much invested one way or the other in the bust and didn’t ask much in the way of direct questions, so I chatted with him about websites and college football. Meanwhile Cowboy Hat is now rifling through my luggage in the back, dragging out my box of book and pamphlets to look through, and finally comes back around to demand the keys for the trunk. The dog didn’t indicate anything at all anywhere near the trunk, but whoever said probable cause has to be very probable? He takes the keys and opens up the trunk, to find nothing at all in it. He stands there staring for a minute and then picks up the cover to look down at the spare tire compartment. He stands there staring for another minute, feels around in the compartment, and finally shuts the trunk. But while he’d gotten what he asked for, he hadn’t gotten what he wanted. I expected I’d be done in another minute, but instead Cowboy Hat goes around and spends another five or ten minutes opening up the hood and staring at the engine block, feeling around under the car to find my magic compartment or whatever he expected, and finally tossing everything back into the backseat and closing up the car.

He gives the keys back and has Officer Friendly hand me back my driver’s license and printed citation. Officer Friendly tries to shrug off the obvious false positive from the dog-sniff, and says that, since it was a rental, there’s No knowing what was in that car the day before yesterday. I shrug and Cowboy Hat mutters that I’m free to go and I should drive safe, at which point I waited for the next opportunity, got back on the road, and changed my planned route so as to spend as little time on Texas highways as possible (I was going to take I-40 to I-20 through Dallas; instead I took I-40 across the panhandle, straight through to Oklahoma City and on to Memphis). I didn’t take down the time, but my subjective recollection is that the whole thing took about half an hour or so.

On my way from Vega to Amarillo and out of the state, I noticed that the Highway Patrol was everywhere — there had been one stop I saw before Cowboy Hat stopped me, and by the time I got past Amarillo I saw a total of 7 or 8 other cars pulled over, with more than one of them involving multiple lights-flashing patrol cars on a single pulled-over car, and more than one with another person being obviously interrogated at the side of the road. I wonder how many of them were trying to work their way up to a search like the one inflicted on me. Given the response time for the dog handler on my own search, it’s obvious that they were keeping the dogs nearby. I don’t know, but given the obviously pretextual stop in my case, the really dense police presence, and the high number of multiple-cruiser stops, I wonder whether this was part of another stupid drug corridor sweep.

As for the search: it was based on suspicion that consisted entirely of the fact that I was very slightly over the speed limit (no more so than surrounding traffic), that I was driving a rental car from out of state, and Cowboy Hat’s completely unquantifiable gut feeling that I must be hiding something. When I refused to consent to a baseless search this was taken as reason to detain me longer and find a way to carry out the search by hook or by crook. The hook in this case was a farcical ritual in which a dog was jogged around the car to get a signal which I know to have been a false positive, so that Cowboy Hat could toss my books and papers, pop my car’s hood, and rifle through my underwear. I never had any drugs and in fact I have never carried drugs or a gun in my car in my entire life. If I had, this would, of course, be a peaceful lifestyle choice that is none of Cowboy Hat’s business anyway. But I hadn’t, and the fact that the magical dog-search was used to justify a warrantless contraband search of a random car pulled over on something that couldn’t even merit a traffic ticket is a good indication of just how secure you are in your person, papers, and effects these days. There are, I guess, four possible explanations of why the dog signaled in the first place. I know that it is not because there were drugs in the car (as Cowboy Hat found out); that leaves us with the following:

  1. It could have been a fraudulently-obtained false positive. Handlers of course have no trouble making trained dogs do more or less whatever they want them to do. You might think that it’s uncharitable to believe that police would do this as a pretext for an otherwise-baseless search, but given the long history of acknowledged police abuse, the incessant series of baseless asset forfeiture cases, and the weekly parade of corruption stories, I have no reason to extend the benefit of the doubt to a random cop off the street.

  2. It could be a simple false positive; sometimes dogs do the things that human trainers interpret as a signal, even though they didn’t smell anything, either for reasons of their own or because they are expected to. There’s no way to ask the dog for clarification, of course. Without any conscious manipulation police dogs have been observed to give absurdly high false-positive rates, especially when handlers subconsciously signal the fact that they expect to find something.

  3. It could be that the dog was jumping at the food I had in my passenger-side front seat — there were left-overs from breakfast and snack-wrappers there, and if the dog could smell drugs he no doubt could smell breakfast too.

  4. As I repeatedly told Cowboy Hat (because he repeatedly asked), this was a rental car which I had had for all of one day (which was clear from the rental contract). Of course, it’s possible that the dog really smelled drug residue; although I have no reason to assume that that’s the case. But if it is the case, I was, after all, driving a car that had been driven by hundreds of people before me. Any one of them could have put anything in the car.

Some of these explanations are more benign and others are more malign. But whichever explanation is the correct one, it ought to be a reminder how incredibly thin and really stupid this sort of evidence is as a probable cause basis for holding me or anybody else hostage and rifling through our stuff. Given how absurdly little transparency there is in the training and handling of police dogs, that dogs are far more likely than not to signal when subconsciously primed by their handlers, that the signals are all common dog behaviors that may be provoked by any number of things, and that even if the signal is in some sense accurate, in a case like mine there is no way to determine whether it came from anything I did or from something that any one of a hundred people before me did, causes for search can get by on being pretty improbable.

I am glad that I stood up for my rights in all this, whether or not I had anything to hide. I’d do the same in a heartbeat, and would in fact cooperate less than I did. I should say that there are a couple respects in which I was just plain lucky. I happened not to be carrying any drugs or guns, but if I were, there is no reason why I ought to be subjected to this kind of interrogation, or search, or hauled away to be locked in a cage at the end of it. I am lucky that Cowboy Hat, unlike some cops, did not choose to escalate his intimidation tactics when I asserted my rights, although if he had I would have stuck to my refusal all the more firmly. I am relatively privileged, as far as law-force encounters go, in that I’m white, Anglo, no longer a teenager, and seem obviously to be what the cops would consider middle class. If I spoke with a different accent, or had a different color of skin, or looked younger, I would no doubt have had it even worse. And it is just sheer, dumb luck that, besides not carrying any drugs or guns in the car, I also was not carrying any significant amount of cash (I had all of $3 in singles in my wallet).

Whether or not they found anything, no matter how flimsy the pretext, had I been carrying any amount of cash above what Cowboy Hat personally felt to be reasonable and lawful, I could quite probably have been subject to asset forfeiture, based on nothing more than the sniff-test and the amount of the money. It’s happened plenty of tims before, including with Texas cops. If I had had cash, and they decided to seize it, it would almost certainly be gone forever; the money would be kept back in Texas, and the burden would be on me to prove (how?) that it wasn’t drug-related. Lots of people are, unfortunately, much less fortunate than I am in some or all of these respects, and are subjected to all kinds of hell on similarly flimsy grounds (the car, it was 5mph over the speed limit! the dog, she barked! I had a feeling!). I was just lucky.

The consolation in all this is twofold.

First, the entire experience was exasperating, but since I knew ahead of time that there was nothing — literally nothing — in the trunk, I did get the minor satisfaction of watching Cowboy Hat standing around like a jackass staring at an empty trunk, peeking with fading hope at the spare tire, and then spending the next few minutes wandering around trying to find some kind of secret compartment in my engine block or under the car.

Second, while I was subjected to a flimsy stop, a harassing interrogation, and an utterly bogus forced search, I asserted my rights, and while they were harassing me, Cowboy Hat, Officer Friendly, and their magic golden retriever were off the road for a good half-hour or more, occupied on petty harassment of me with nothing at all to show for their effort at the end of it. That all sucks, but the minor consolation is that at least while they wasted their time on me, the road was that much more open for honest drug-dealers, gun-smugglers and people with cash under their seat to drive through unmolested. I didn’t volunteer for this, but given that I was drafted into it I consider making the cops work for their search, and this entire waste of police time and resources, to be a minor act of public service to my fellow motorists, who might have came out of it worse than I did.

See also:

  1. [1] I’ll be presenting the current iteration of Women and the Invisible Fist, which I suppose will be rather different fare from that normally offered at the ASC. The panel is the same Spontaneous Order panel we had intended to put on at last December’s APA Eastern Division meeting in Boston, which the gods buried in an impassable snowdrift. ASC graciously allowed us the time slot to reschedule the panel, and since Roderick and both of our original commentators live in Auburn, it seemed like a natural fit.

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31 replies to In which I perform a public service Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. iceberg

    “…I signaled and shifted over to the right hand lane, then slowed down to 70mph even.”

    You see right there, that’s the probable cause; only someone with something to hide would strive to avoid the gaze of our noble protectors/donut grazers.

  2. Rocco

    Good post. I had a similar experience in MA, rental car and all, but alas, I did have a decriminalized quantity of cannabis in the car, which resulted in my being caged like a criminal nonetheless.

  3. BigMike

    In most jurisdictions, the dog is required to be retrained and re-certified in the event of a ‘false positive’, but only if a complaint is filed. The procedure may very from city to city, but it’s an effective way to clog their system a little and prevents them from using the dog until it’s over. Most small communities that use a police dog only have one and there’s big problems for prosecutors if they continue to use it without being retrained. If they do in fact retrain the dog, they’ll be without it for a week or two.

    Rex Curry’s website has some good info regarding the use of police dogs with court cases and decisions you can read through. http://rexcurry.net/drugdogsmain.html

    By the way, when we met last summer I didn’t know this was your blog even though I had been reading it periodically for about a year. Have a good trip and hopefully I’ll see you back in the Shire soon.

  4. Christina Blain

    Excellent post.

    My 70+ year old white female neighbor was put through this about a year ago while driving her car with Mississippi plates through Texas on her way back to California.

    She was even asked how much cash she had on her.

    So much for “american soldiers are/have fighting/fought and dying/died for “our freedom.”“

  5. Kevin Carson

    Jesus wept. And they wonder why we call them pigs. I feel for you. One reason I hate cops is that every time I see one behind me I start wondering what I’ve done, and feel powerless and afraid. And I hate anyone who makes me feel powerless and afraid.

    The guy seriously said you “seemed nervous”? Gosh, no reason to feel nervous when you’re in an unequal power relationship with someone who could shoot you dead on the spot, plant a gun on you, and have their word taken as fucking gospel by a judge in the absence of any video evidence to the contrary.

    Next time I hear about an execution-style slaying of a cop facedown on the road out in the middle of nowhere, I’ll think of those guys.

  6. George Donnelly

    Sorry to hear about this and glad you escaped mostly unscathed.

  7. Brock

    Charles, you left the most obvious (and, yet, never considered) option out of your list: drug/bomb/cadaver dogs are nothing more than four-legged dowsing rods.

    I have searched repeatedly for double-blind trials of the efficacy of detection dogs and have found exactly none. What’s more, false positive data has only been maintained by one organization (a council in England that showed false positives in 68% of “alerts”) and there’s no way to maintain records of “misses”, so no meta-studies can be completed.

    Recently, a UC Davis study concluded that the handler’s beliefs had more effect on “alerts” than actual drug presence, but even the researchers didn’t question the efficacy of the dogs themselves.

    http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/newsroom/newsdetail.html?key=4968&svr=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu&table=published

    DARPA researchers have just terminated a program for mechanical sniffers. Although they could make sensors more sensitive than a dog’s nose, they couldn’t detect drugs/bombs/cadavers. Because they couldn’t achieve a greater-than-chance efficacy, they concluded that the dogs were better (for magical reasons?) and they would just continue to use them.

    Handlers (and other stakeholders) have made outlandish claims about the efficacy of detection dogs to which people are rightly sceptical, but they should be just as sceptical about a dog that can track 30 days after the target has moved through an area as they are with “Officer Friendly’s” claim that “since it was a rental, there’s ‘No knowing what was in that car the day before yesterday.’” Neither claim passes the sniff test (I crack myself up).

    I’ve already run overtime on this comment, but I had to laugh at Marc J. Victor’s deposition of a K-9 handler at an interior border patrol checkpoint. The handler said the dog was trained to detect “concealed humans” but could not say how the dog distinguished between “concealed” and “unconcealed” humans in the passing cars :)

    • Rad Geek

      Brock:

      Charles, you left the most obvious (and, yet, never considered) option out of your list: drug/bomb/cadaver dogs are nothing more than four-legged dowsing rods.

      That may well be the case. If so, I take it to be a generalization of possibility #1 or #2. Whatever the case may be, I certainly don’t think that the unreliability of the sniff-test in my case is at all special; it’s not like it was that particular dog’s fault. I agree that it is part of a much, much larger problem, and that the fact that these completely opaque, entirely unreliable dog-sniff rituals are treated as probable cause for anything at all is, really, pretty ridiculous.

  8. Discussed at www.usainexile.com

    This kind of abuse of power is when people with a uniform are given the right to harrass. « USA in Exile:

    […] I am fine: I was not arrested, not ticketed, and nothing was seized; at the end of the day, aside from a paper warning, I ended up with nothing other than an annoying delay, an attempt at a petty humiliation, and a sad reminder of the sort of random-sweep police state tactics that are routinely used, with the minutest of ritual gestures at a sort of farce on ““due process,”” against people who are often legally innocent, who are ““suspected”” on the most unreasonable of ““suspicions”” and detained on the most specious of pretexts, and who, even if they are legally at risk, are almost never morally guilty of threaten the rights or liberties of any identifiable human victim whatever. MORE […]

  9. Discussed at www.theagitator.com

    Saturday Links | The Agitator:

    […] a well-written, often-amusing firsthand account of a bogus drug dog alert and ensuing search during a traffic […]

  10. Discussed at ingunowners.com

    Drug-sniffing dogs are cheating cheaters hoping for steak - Page 5 - INGunOwners:

    […] that handlers can gin up any excuse to violate your 4th amendment rights, when they desire to. Rad Geek People’s Daily 2011-03-03 – In which I perform a public service __________________ […]

  11. Fred Mangels

    What I don’t understand, is if the dog can supposedly detect drugs and supposedly signaled there were drugs in the car, once they decided they had probable cause and entered the car, why didn’t they have the dog point out where the drugs were?

  12. JtGeorgia

    I have had this kind of experience multiple times here in Georgia.

    My spirit tells me NOT to answer ANY stupid “chatty” questions. My spirit tells me NOT to allow a search without a warrant.

    But my knowledge of the crooked police compells me to relent each time. They ALL have little drop bags of narcotics. If you piss these guys off, they can literally ruin your life.

    Welcome to the U.S.

  13. Dr. T

    You are lucky that Officer Cowboy Hat didn’t “find” a bag of marijuana, cocaine, or methamphetamines in your luggage. Perhaps he might have if you had been driving your own vehicle that the state police could confiscate.

  14. Rob

    Here’s how it really works:

    The canine officer more than likely had a bag of weed in his pocket. Ironic, no?

    What he will do is put his hand in his pocket, on the bag, then as he walks by the car, he will graze the car for a second then remove his hand.

    He will then bring the dog back around to that spot and the dog will “hit” on it, giving them their “probable cause”.

    It’s an old trick they use. Trust me, if that dog gets called, your car is getting searched one way or the other. Just be glad they didn’t plant some cocaine in your ride just so they could get an arrest that would make them look good.

    Cops suck.

    • Rad Geek

      The canine officer more than likely had a bag of weed in his pocket. … What he will do is put his hand in his pocket, on the bag, then as he walks by the car, he will graze the car for a second then remove his hand.

      That’s possible. Certainly, there have been plenty of known cases of cops who were willing to plant evidence in order to get their way. That said, however, I do think it’s important to stress that even without any conscious manipulation of evidence, drug-sniffing dogs still give absurdly high false-positive rates — as in, when they can sense that they are expected to find something, they signal falsely in the vast majority of cases, even when there is nothing there to detect. Even if it were quite clear that no fast ones had been pulled, that would still be no reason at all to treat the whole farcical ritual as probable cause for much of anything. It’s as meaningful a form of due process as calling in a witch-hunter and having them search for the Devil’s Mark.

  15. perlhaqr

    While I can understand the desire to spend as little time in Texas as possible, I doubt you actually netted yourself anything by traveling through Oklahoma instead. I had precisely the same experience there, with the difference that I let the cop search my car because he was smart enough to not give me the speed warning first. (It seemed probable that if I actually stuck up for myself, I’d be guaranteed of getting a ticket.)

    So, I guess the moral of this story is: they do this sort of shit everywhere.

    • Rad Geek

      Perlhaqr,

      I’m sorry to hear about what happened to you; thank you for sharing it, though. I’m not a big fan of Oklahoma highway police either.

      In my case, the object of diverting from Texas to Oklahoma wasn’t to avoid the possibility of invasive tactics from the highway po-po. I realize that goes on everywhere. It was just to get out of a state where I already had one warning on me for that day.

      I don’t have anything at all against Texas as a place — that’s actually where I was born and where most of my people live. I object to the government that oppresses Texas (including, among others, the Dynamic Duo I had to deal with this time); but that’s no less true of any of the other states I was passing through along my way.

    • Elliot

      Interstate highways are bad in the South and Southwest. In Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, etc., they’re looking for drugs on the East/West routes (I-10, I-20, …) in particular. In New Mexico, Arizona, California, they’re looking for drugs and illegal immigrants.

      Sounds like you got away with a moderate-level BS stop. They can get much worse, even for people who have done nothing illegal.

  16. dhmosquito

    You mention “… followed me in the left lane.” If traffic was sparse, he may have wondered why you were in the passing lane, in combination with the “chickenshit” reason of traveling 5-7mph over the posted speed limit. I drive a few times a year between SD and VA, and often wonder what I’ll encounter. Given states’ poor fiscal pictures, I generally don’t do more than a few mph over any posted limit, as they employ “speeding” as a revenue generator. ESPECIALLY so in Nebraska.

    Thanks for a most interesting, well-written story. If “civics” is ever taught again in America, it should be stressed 1) NEVER give permission to search, and 2) NEVER answer questions in custody without a lawyer.

    I encourage you to join the National Motorists’ Association. Details at http://www.motorists.org/

    And remember, if you do get a traffic citation, always fight it in court. It keeps the officer who cited you from hassling others that day and helps slow down the revenue generation system.

  17. MaxHedrm

    Actually, if you were not passing anyone in the left lane, you were breaking the law (in addition to the tiny amount over the speed limit you were driving). I’m surprised (and a bit disappointed) he didn’t ticket you on that, if that was the case. That most certainly doesn’t excuse the search though.

    • Rad Geek

      MaxHedrm,

      I wasn’t. I was in the left lane because I was passing an 18-wheel truck at the time Cowboy Hat pulled onto the road behind me. That’s why I mentioned that I had to wait for the opportunity to shift over into the right lane. Cowboy Hat stayed in the left lane far longer than I did (and while riding in the left lane slowed down so as not to pass me on the left) and he had nothing to say about the left lane when he pulled me over or when he issued the paper warning.

      I didn’t go into detail on this point in the original post because I don’t think it’s very important to the story.

  18. Matt

    You were kidnapped. Those cops consumed 30 minutes of your one and only life. If you or I did that to some stranger without a legally proper costume, we’d spend years in a cage.

  19. Tex

    The same sort of thing happened to me in Arkansas. Driving from Houston to Hot Springs to visit friends, had just gone through Texarkana. The speed limit is Arkansas is 10mph less for big trucks and there must have been 30 of them on the highway. I noticed the Highway Patrol car hanging back in the left lane, so I made sure I was doing the speed limit and used my signal each time I passed a truck. The Highway Patrol car just stayed back in the left lane while I must have passed 5 trucks and each time pulled back into the right lane. I didn’t want to be in his way in case he had something IMPORTANT to do. After the 5th lane change, he pulled behind me, flashed the lights and I pulled over. He said that I had failed to signal the last lane change, BS BS BS!!!! When I offered him my license, registration and insurance, he told me he didn’t need insurance, he had already checked that!!! Usual interrogation, didn’t ask to search, gave me a warning and went back to doing his JOB, what a joke. This was 5 years ago and it still pisses me off.

  20. Joe Friday

    Let me see if I have this right. You openly describe yourself as a “revolutionary” and you think probable cause doesn’t exist? For all the cops know, you’ve taken it upon yourself to finish Bill Ayres’ work. Jeez. And take a shave, you damn hippie.

    • Rad Geek

      This is one of those things where I don’t know whether to treat this as a comment or a sort of performance art.

      You openly describe yourself as a “revolutionary”

      Yep.

      and you think probable cause doesn’t exist?

      Correct.

      For all the cops know, you’ve taken it upon yourself to finish Bill Ayres’ work.

      Last I checked the Vietnam War was already ended a few years back.

      Anyway.

      1. I did not openly describe myself as anything to Cowboy Hat. He didn’t ask about my political beliefs and I had no reason to mention them. As far as I know Texas Highway Patrol hasn’t got a Psi Corps.

      2. Even if he had somehow telepathically detected views we never discussed, I do not believe that a person’s political beliefs are even remotely anything like probable cause for random, open-ended fishing-expedition of their person, papers or effects on the basis of pure speculation that maybe they’re guilty of somethin’ or another, even if it’s completely unrelated to those beliefs. In any minimally free society a person’s political beliefs by themselves aren’t a sufficient basis for arrests or warrantless forced searches of their papers or effects about purely speculative crimes. That seems to me to be the very definition of psychotic police-statism. How about you?

      3. I should point out, again, that neither my whiskers nor my politics change the fact that the drug-dog sniff-search, used in this case to justify a forced warrantless search of my car and all my effects — as it is used in many other cases, involving people without whiskers or anarchist convictions — was demonstrably either (a) completely fraudulent, or else (b) completely unreliable. The fact that police routinely use methods that are easily faked and wildly unreliable in order to justify significant, invasive uses of legal force against completely innocent people seems like it might be a matter for some concern, even for those who don’t agree with or much like my political convictions.

  21. Discussed at aaeblog.com

    Travelin’ Man:

    […] the ASC thanks to the Mises Institute’s gracious rescue (despite the panel’s being, as Charles notes, “rather different fare from that normally offered at the […]

  22. Tristan

    Following on from discussion of sniffer dogs taking cues - it looks like they do

— 2012 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2012-09-20 – Thursday Morning News Clippings:

    […] 2A. Donathan Prater, Bo’s nose: Auburn police get new K-9 tracker. A fairly typical police puff piece to announce that the police force occupying Auburn, Alabama has a new dog that they are going to use to hound people who are trying to get away from them, and to get or fabricate probable cause for harassing people suspected of nonviolent drug offenses. […]

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