A pretty lousy practice by the police.

Last week I was driving Michaelyn up to Springfield, MO from Arkansas when I saw a state trooper pull a u-turn behind me and come right up on my ass.  I pulled out my cell phone and set the audio recorder (just in case officer Friendly decided to be stupid), got my license and stuff out, and about then red and blue lights came on.  Admittedly, I was confused.  Michaelyn will vouch that I drive like a grandma and was easily doing five under at the time.  Turns out I didn’t have a front license plate, which you’re supposed to have in Missouri.

So officer Friendly took my info and ran it and came back and informed me that I had an unpaid ticket from back in the day and that he had to arrest me.  I got cuffed and everything.

I got hauled off the the Ava courthouse to post bail (which was $2,000 for an $85 offense).  The cops there were actually pretty chill.  They didn’t even handcuff me to the bench (also, no joke, in whatever database they were punching my info into, I am now associated with the alias “The Half-Blood Prince”.  This was after I asked if tater salad was taken).  We got to chatting, during which they told me that the state trooper who pulled me over for no front plate must’ve been the most bored cop in the state.  That made me giggle.

While we were sitting there shooting the shit (and I was regaling them with magic) I had a conversation with the sheriff.  You see, when I was arrested, officer Friendly asked me if I had any drugs on my person or in my car.  I asked the sheriff if anybody ever answered “yes” to that.  The sheriff said they didn’t, which surprised neither of us.

I asked why cops even pose the question, since they’re going to search the person anyway and the cop already know the answer he’s going to get.  The sheriff told me that if the person says “no” and then drugs are found, it’s another felony charge on top of that.

I then asked if the goal was to stack felony charges on someone.  The sheriff, who seemed to me to be an extremely nice guy, paused for a moment before saying it wasn’t, but then he never said what the goal was.

That seemed pretty shitty.  Even the innocent are often in a panicked state when confronted by the police.  In my experience, the police often do what they can to encourage the state of panic (likely in the hopes that people will do something stupid).  The natural inclination is to protect yourself, and often people do things when they are freaking out that they would not do if they were thinking clearly.  Like the sheriff said, anybody with any sense can understand why the answer is always “no” and would have no realistic hopes of getting a “yes”, even when drugs are present – that’s why the police search upon an arrest anyway.  It’s already a bad enough conviction for drug possession, and I don’t see any humanity in setting people up to make it worse.

I suspect I’ll write a griping letter to the representatives in Missouri who will promptly ignore it.

PERSONAL: Sorry to disappoint you, Julian.
Update and pics from #AACon15. MST3K cast members were at my talk.
It's funny how ambitions change over time.
PERSONAL: Happy birthday, Hitch.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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