A cDc Public Service Announcement
Over the years, I have watched more friends and acquaintances than I care to recall get arrested for things that were eminently preventable. Not having come of age in the paranoia-filled H/Ph scene, most people have simply never learned „the basics“ as far as dealing with law enforcement and how to avoid getting busted for doing really stupid things.
And yes, most arrests are for „really stupid things“ that are for the most part victimless crimes: a gram of blow here, a bag of weed there, an unregistered gun, or a DUI — nothing that does anything but tell all future potential employers until the end of time that you’re an idiot with a predilection for substance abuse that can’t keep his cool. So, when I’m talking about getting arrested for „stupid things“, I’m talking about the sorts of things that the average college kid tends to get busted for: DUI’s, drug possession, and stupid little misdemeanor crimes — not engaging in „crimes of conscience‘ or something related to revolutionary political activity. Yes, many of us want to experience all of the hedonistic vicissitudes of life to their fullest, and we might even find ourselves thinking thoughts along the lines of… „better to take a risk and live a fulfilling life than be assured a safe but terminally boring existence“ — but there’s absolutely nothing cool or romantic about getting arrested, and that „bad boy“ image you might pride yourself on having wilts pretty quickly when you’re rotting in County waiting for your bail bond money to come through, with your stinky armpits still streaming sweat as you come down from the X and yayo still percolating through your bloodstream as you do your best to hold your nose and vainly try to avoid the scent of vomit coming from the winos and junkies that are now your cellmates. Your (now conveniently absent) rent-a-friends at the nightclub the night before don’t seem to be answering their cell phones, either, and you might be strongly reconsidering your atheism as you plea to God to just get you out of this mess.
Moreover, as much as you might vow to never, ever repeat any sort of similar mistake again, the odds are that you will, like most, get sucked back in to the same sort of social dynamic, doing little but vowing to be „more careful in the future.“
If your social circle resembled mine at one point (although it is starting to seem like many eons ago!) it might seem surprising to remember that seemingly omnipresent artifacts of 20something urban life like cocaine, Ecstasy, and pain pills actually illegal — andbelieve it or not, the law tends to take even small drug possession cases very very seriously. Having something as seemingly insignifcant as a gram of blow can net you a few months in County if you don’t know what you’re doing. Driving under the influence is probably an even greater risk, and something the law takes very, very seriously these days — not only are you likely to lose your license for some time, but you’re looking at around ten grand in court costs, a whole lot of weekends attending irritating „alcohol education classes“, and the embarassment of having to explain yourself to any potential employer for the next decade or so. (You do want to do some work at some point besides wait tables, don’t you?)
I’m not trying to moralize at all. Fact is, the vast majority of young people in urban areas tend to at least dabble in some sort of illicit substances and drink to excess more than they probably should. Like any sort of vice, the absolute best course of action is to simply not engage in it to begin with (the wise tend to learn this lesson fairly early in life, whereas most continue on much longer. Out of some sort of benevolent karmic necessity, things tend to be a little easier on the young — but those that stay closely allied with social dynamics intertwined with drugs and (especially) alcohol tend to experience more heartache as they age. After all, it’s pretty hard to conjure up notions of being a „dumb kid‘ when you’re in your mid 30’s and you thought it was a better idea to just „risk it“ and drive your car home instead of springing $20 for a cab.
Enough of the preamble: the question is — how do I generally avoid the most egregious errors that lead one to trouble with law enforcement for doing things that nearly everyone else in the young urban population is actually doing? I would know a good dozen people that would be conveniently without a rap sheet (or at least be a few thousand dollar richer thanks to not needing the services of an expensive lawyer) had they followed this advice, so take heart. Let me offer a few real-world examples of people that did things the wrong way:
Example #1: The Cops Break Up A Party
Tom was attending an after-hours party in a sketchy neighborhood that was broken up by the police. After being instructed by several uniformed officers that the party attendees needed to exit the building, he became paranoid because he had a small amount of cocaine on his person. So, he decided to make a quick „incognito move“ in the form of moving to the back of the party and stashing his bag before exiting the party. The police noticed that he was not following directions and acting suspiciously, called him over, and subsequently searched him and confiscated his baggies of cocaine and Ecstasy, after which point he spent 36 hours in jail coming down from his trip until he scraped together $7000 for a lawyer that managed to spring him on a technicality.
Example #2: The Blatant Honey Pot
Larry was attending a large, well-known bluegrass festival in a small mountain town served by a single road. Upon nearing the entrance to the town on a well known „party weekend“, he was greeted by a sign that stated that „Drug Detecting Dogs In Use Ahead.“ Frightened, he made a U-turn and attempted to dispose of a small amount of marijuana, at which point the police closed in and promptly arrested him.
Example #3: Poor DUI Decisions
Jack had imbibed a couple of cocktails before getting in his tricked-out BMW M3, unwisely doing over 100 MPH in a 65 MPH speed zone. When pulled over by police, he reached for a breath mint and popped it in his mouth before rolling down his window and talking to the police officer (while also apparently forgetting to remove his sunglasses) who promptly questioned his need to pop an Altoids after being pulled over and administered a series of roadside tests. Luckily, his cooler-headed colleague in the passenger side did not heed his request to „do something“ about the multiple grams of cocaine wedged in between the two seats.and instead chose to do nothing, opting instead for a demeanor that suggested boredom and mild irritation at the whole inconvenience.
While all three of these examples are different, the one thing that could have completely prevented any sort of arrest or inconvenience can be distilled to one simple action: _keeping one’s cool_. Fact is, if the police have probable cause for drug possession, intoxication, or any number of other things they are going to request a breathalyzer, car search, or anything else, and your lame attempt to fool them in the form of discreetly popping a Certs or reaching down to stash a bag of coke in your shoe isn’t going fooling anyone. In example #3 above, the most egregious error came in the form of radically exceeding the posted speed limit with controlled substances in the car.
So what should you do in these sorts of situations?
First of all, _keep your cool_. For God’s sake, I hope no one out there is dumb enough to drive when they’re totally mashed (if so, you probably deserve to be arrested) but if you’ve just „had a couple“ and your BAC might be teetering on the edge of legality don’t pop mints, reach for anything, and _roll down the windows and take your damn sunglasses off immediately_. Affect a dismeanor that is equal parts politeness and mild irritation at the inconvenience you are going through. Don’t attempt to reach for anything below the seat, the glove box, or anything like that. Remember, cops stop more speeders per day than they can even remember, and break up parties every Friday and Saturday night. Most really have no interest in excessively messing with you unless you give them a reason, so don’t act suspicious and give them a reason.
Second of all, if you do get a breathalyzer test, do not consent to take it unless you are completely and totally sure you will pass it. In my home state of Colorado, roadside tests are completely and totally voluntary. The police may arrest you and take you to a secondary testing facility to check your blood alcohol content there (most likely with a blood test.) At this point, it’s probably in your best interest to take the test, but you’ve most likely bought yourself a good hour or so. Ensure that you’re read your Miranda warning. Check the specifics in your particular state. Remember, there are worse things than losing your driver’s license for a year or so if you refuse the test.
If your car IS searched and you are asked for consent, state that you do not give consent to search your car. While this statement probably won’t help _a lot_, it does provide a little additional legal padding if you go to court. (However, since you’re reading this, you’re not ever going to need to have to deal with this anyway.) Needless to say, drive with utmost caution if you’ve got anything to hide at all — go 5 MPH over the speed limit but no more, and ensure that your tags are current.
Again, the most important thing (after not engaging in poor lifestyle choices to begin with and not engaging in egregiously reckless behavior) is to simply _keep your cool_. This is much easier said than done; after all, our innate fight-or-flight response wants to do „something“ to resolve a potentially painful situation NOW: it wants to throw incriminating evidence out the window — it wants to keep those sunglasses on since they provide a feeling of anonymity — and once it is finally cornered, it wants to give in to the notion that things will naturally be better if a „cooperative, go-with-the-flow“ sort of attitude is adopted. Use your best judgment here: if you’re honestly drunk, you’re not going to fool the roadside tests, so just accept that you might lose your license for a year.
Now, who was the person that kept their cool in the third example above? Had a Certain Someone not refused the driver’s admonition to „do something“ about the white powder in the car, it could have easily led to a serious, dramatic, negatively-life-impacting event for both, so get over the notions that you learned from your NWA records that cops have no point for existing other than to mess with you unnecessarily. True, many WILL hassle you for no reason, but most are simply out there to meet their quota of speeding tickets or follow up on noise complaints, and aren’t exactly oblivious to as much as you think they are. If they’re going to mess with you, they’ll mess with you — so just don’t give them a reason.
This little exegesis on how to relate to law enforcement might seem overly basic to many of you, but it has been my long-standing experience that most people haven’t intuited anything like this at all. Be safe, and hopefully you will never have to awkwardly explain a „youthful indiscretion“ to a potential employer in your life!
About CULT OF THE DEAD COW
Based in Lubbock, Texas, CULT OF THE DEAD COW (cDc) is the most influential computer underground group in the world. The cDc alumni list reads like a Who’s Who of hacking and includes a former Presidential advisor on Internet security, among others. The group is further distinguished by publishing the longest running e-zine on the Internet [est. 1984], stretching the limits of the First Amendment, and fighting anyone or any government that aspires to limit free speech. For more information, please visit www.cultdeadcow.com
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