Drug War

Cops Total BMW While Looking for Nonexistent Marijuana


When police in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, pulled Darren Richardson over, it was supposedly because he had narrowly avoided a collision at an intersection. After they detected what they later described as a "strong odor of raw marijuana," they impounded Richardson's black BMW 325i and tore it apart over the course of three weeks with the help of drug-sniffing dogs, causing more than $12,000 in damages—so much that Richardson's insurer declared the car totaled. They found nothing. NJ.com reports that the September 23 incident "has led to an internal affairs investigation by the Pompton Lakes Police Department, opened the door for litigation that could cost local taxpayers and left experts wondering whether the department wasted resources in pursuit of what many see as a minor crime."     

In addition to trashing his car, police charged Richardson with evidence tampering and resisting arrest (because he argued with them). They charged his passenger with making "terroristic threats." After it turned out there was no evidence to tamper with, the charges were reduced to "petty disorderly persons offenses." Police claimed two different dogs "signaled" the presence of drugs (in two different locations, the trunk and the dashboard) and speculated that the car may have been used to transport marijuana at some point in the past. 

More on pot-sniffing cops here and here. More on drug-sniffing dogs here.

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

NEXT: Ron Paul Does Not Call Himself an Isolationist, but 'Many Others' (Including New York Times Reporters) Do

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “…left experts wondering whether the department wasted resources in pursuit of what many see as a minor crime.”

    Experts in what? If you have to wonder whether it’s a waste, then you must be an expert in being fucking stupid.

    1. ^THIS^

    2. experts in obfuscation, perhaps?

  2. And these cops must be as ignorant as the day is long. Isn’t it SOP to just throw something down when dogs are wrong (which they are about half the time)?

    1. Must not have been part of their training. Department assumed they already knew how things worked. Maybe these cops weren’t originally from Jersey.

  3. “When police in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey…”

    I stopped reading at that point. Discussing irredeemable shitholes isn’t really a productive use of time. We might as well discuss some celebrity’s T&A instead.

    1. Michael Bay is apparently tapping this:


      1. Michael Bay is dating a stick figure?

        1. I agree. Too skinny.

          1. Bitch obviously never heard the term “all you can eat”…

          2. You guys are fucking nuts. She’s a bit slender, but I’d be all over that.

            1. Me too. She’s got the bod of a teenage boy.

        2. That’s not a stick figure, THIS is a stick figure:


    2. It’s New Jersey. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what goes on there. I could write a book relating the sheer volume of rights violations and general time-wasting I suffered at the hands of the statist cretins populating that state. One time for example, they towed my legally registered and insured car as an “abandoned vehicle” because it had been parked directly in front of my house for three days. Even the prosecutor couldn’t believe that one. I was constantly pulled over for things like “slowing”. Cop: “Do you know how fast you were going?” Me: “About 30, is this a 25 zone?” Cop: “No, 35.” It goes on and on. These idiots actually think this is the only way to live. Perhaps they should take a lesson from other places they visit, maybe Florida since that’s the only far off place Jersey people ever visit. I really can’t believe Judge Napolitano is from Jersey. He’s totally the opposite of every other government official I’ve ever known there.

  4. Typical of todays L.E.O.’s
    To protect their interests and serve themselves. Trust us we’re from the government and we’re here to help.

  5. I propose an official image for law enforcement fuck-ups and abuse:


    1. I propose that the word “cops” gets retired and the word “cunts” gets reassigned.

  6. But just think what could have happened if there was marijuana in the car?

    Kids could smoke it and grow up into someone like Gingrich or Obama. Horrible government officials who want to throw marijuana users in jail

    1. This is perhaps the only only valid excuse I’ve read to support prohibition. Though you need to make sure to include Clinton and Dubya in on that too.

      “We MUST continue the War on People Drugs lest our children grow up to be just like Obama or The Shrub!”

    2. Marijuana is a gateway drug to the presidency. 100% of US Presidents since 1997 smoked marijuana first.

      1. ’93 genius.

        1. That made me laugh. Not LOL. Really laugh.

  7. [The] Police … speculated that the car may have been used to transport marijuana at some point in the past.

    I speculate that they are lying sacks of shit.

    1. “I speculate that they are lying sacks of shit.”

      No speculation there.

  8. speculated that the car may have been used to transport marijuana at some point in the past.

    Who could possibly have seen that coming?

  9. Cops should *always* stop and search when they see a Bimmer. The BMW is the preferred vehicle of choice for the drugsters. I learned it on Miami Vice.

  10. It has always amazed me that police don’t have a duty to cause minimal damage during searches. Trashing a house or car while searching it seems like a due process violation (you get your car destroyed because of simple probably cause? Seems to me you should be convicted of something before the gov’t gets to destroy your property) and also counter productive. A search would be much more effective if done in a careful and methodical way.

    1. A search would be much more effective if done in a careful and methodical way.

      I don’t think responding to your arguments, methodically, point by point would be as effective as banning you from the internet.

      1. Don’t stand so close to me.

        1. I’ll be watching you, FoE.

        2. Sending out an SOS?

        3. I feel a need to post this.

          1. The looting in LA was the welfare state without the voting booth.

            1. I agree. This is the only appropriate response to Weird Al.

              1. For you, my friend.

    2. The damage done during a search is often a form of punishment. Mouth off to the cop with the warrant, he makes sure they leave your house looking like a tornado went through it. I guarantee if this guy had kissed ass, he wouldn’t have had his car destroyed.

  11. Most likely there are efforts underway to develop an electronic nose to replace the dogs.

  12. The good news is that the cops did not shoot the dogs.

    1. Only because they needed them to “justify” their actions.

  13. Trashing a house or car while searching it seems like a due process violation (you get your car destroyed because of simple probably cause?

    Of course, if you tried to sue claiming an illegal taking under the Fifth Amendment, you’d probably get laughed out of court.

    1. If it’s insured, it’s probably up to your insurance company to sue the police, and guess how likely that is. The real scare is that it’s likely insurance companies would just eventually include clauses to indemnify them against damages caused by state actors. Just like my home insurance policy clearly states that damages due to acts of war and/or nuclear weapons (actually specifically called out) are not covered.

      1. Actually, Geico, the insurance company used by the man involved in the story, is suing the cops for recompense.

        1. I probably should have R’d TFA.

  14. You’re going to get a scolding from anonypussy for defaming the police, Jacob.

    1. Poor Brooksie. Anarchists get no respect and it makes you sad and frustrated.

  15. Another portent of our near-future.

  16. They charged his passenger with making “terroristic threats.”

    Does anyone find this part particularly disturbing? I can only assume the passenger threatened to bomb the police station or release a biological weapon in the cops’ hometown.

    Because the cops would never classify something as terroristic that wasn’t, just like they would never use powers intended to fight terrorism against drug dealers and online gamblers.

    1. Blacks have “civil rights,” quotas, mandated hiring preferences, set-asides for gov’t contracts, gerrymandered voting districts .black bureaucracies, black mayors, black curricula in schools, black TV shows, black TV anchors, hate crime laws,….and public humiliation for anyone who dares question the black agenda.

      1. Oh Slappy…why do you persist in annoying us with your racist idiocy? Take your collectivism and cram it wherever your species traditionally crams things.

        1. Indeed, it is shocking to consider the uniformity of opinion among blacks in this country.

        2. Cut him some slack Epi. It is hard for liberals right now. Obama has betrayed every principal they claimed to hold dear. But they know they have to vote for him. The only way to do that is convince themselves the other side is worse. Since Ron Paul is racist, it is okay that Obama claims to power to detain US citizens indefinitely. Got that?

          1. Yep. (Sorry for the wall of text)

            As Matt Stoller argued in a genuinely brilliant essay on the history of progressivism and the Democratic Party which I cannot recommend highly enough: “the anger [Paul] inspires comes not from his positions, but from the tensions that modern American liberals bear within their own worldview.” Ron Paul’s candidacy is a mirror held up in front of the face of America’s Democratic Party and its progressive wing, and the image that is reflected is an ugly one; more to the point, it’s one they do not want to see because it so violently conflicts with their desired self-perception.

            The thing I loathe most about election season is reflected in the central fallacy that drives progressive discussion the minute “Ron Paul” is mentioned. As soon as his candidacy is discussed, progressives will reflexively point to a slew of positions he holds that are anathema to liberalism and odious in their own right and then say: how can you support someone who holds this awful, destructive position? The premise here ? the game that’s being played ? is that if you can identify some heinous views that a certain candidate holds, then it means they are beyond the pale, that no Decent Person should even consider praising any part of their candidacy.

            The fallacy in this reasoning is glaring. The candidate supported by progressives ? President Obama ? himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians ? Muslim children by the dozens ? not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations with drones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents ? in secret and with no checks ? to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has waged an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.

            He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs,including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish ? a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shieldmortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes is as strong as ever.

            Most of all, America’s National Security State, its Surveillance State, and its posture of endless war is more robust than ever before. The nation suffers from what National Journal’s Michael Hirsh just christened “Obama’s Romance with the CIA.” He has created what The Washington Post just dubbed “a vast drone/killing operation,” all behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy and without a shred of oversight. Obama’s steadfast devotion to what Dana Priest and William Arkin called “Top Secret America” has severe domestic repercussions as well, building up vast debt and deficits in the name of militarism that create the pretext for the “austerity” measures which the Washington class (including Obama) is plotting to impose on America’s middle and lower classes.

            The simple fact is that progressives are supporting a candidate for President who has done all of that ? things liberalism has long held to be pernicious. I know it’s annoying and miserable to hear. Progressives like to think of themselves as the faction that stands for peace, opposes wars, believes in due process and civil liberties, distrusts the military-industrial complex, supports candidates who are devoted to individual rights, transparency and economic equality. All of these facts ? like the history laid out by Stoller in that essay ? negate that desired self-perception. These facts demonstrate that the leader progressives have empowered and will empower again has worked in direct opposition to those values and engaged in conduct that is nothing short of horrific. So there is an eagerness to avoid hearing about them, to pretend they don’t exist. And there’s a corresponding hostility toward those who point them out, who insist that they not be ignored.

      2. I…I wasn’t talking about Ron Paul.

    2. Under a Democratic administration? Unpossible!

      1. But the Crips & Bloods, in turns out, have been misunderstood, according to Ted Koppel who interviewed two of these animals.

        1. …Crips and Bloods ARE animals. Decent human beings do not join vicious, violent criminal gangs.

    3. “Terroristic threats” have been in the law for a long time, long before 9/11. They are basically the “assault” part of the assault and battery.

    4. Ya know, back when they were passing the Patriot Act, I would have never, in my wildest dreams, guessed that anyone would use those powers for more than was originally intended.

      How could any of us have predicted such a thing?

      1. ** laughs us sleeve **

    5. Hugh,

      In my wonderful state of New Jersey, “terroristic threats” means:

      “A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if he threatens to commit any crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another or to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation, or otherwise to cause serious public inconvenience, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience.”

      Note the part about causing “serious public inconvenience.” To say that the the name of this crime as “terroristic threats” is wildly overstated is an understatement.

    6. They charged his passenger with making “terroristic threats.”

      Now with the Defense authorization act signed into law, obama, or the cops acting with his authority, could designate the passenger an enemy of the state. Then they could incarcerate him indefinitely or just shoot him on the spot. That will teach his smart ass.

  17. I’m predicting now that race riots will be the major problem of the 1990s.

  18. Many more are going to have difficulty avoiding the belief that our country is being destroyed by a group of actual & potential terrorists — and they can be identified by the color of their skin.

    1. …Obama and Holder ARE black…

      1. Indeed, it is shocking to consider the uniformity of opinion among blacks in this country.

        1. We’re counting on that, Wisdom. That’s why we HAD to make sure Herman Cain didn’t get the nomination.

          1. And why I hold that it is racist to require ID in order to vote, or remove political affiliations from the ballot.

            In a letter to attorneys for the city of Kinston dated August 17, 2009, the Holder Justice Department explained that “the elimination of party affiliation on the ballot will likely reduce the ability of blacks to elect candidates of choice.”

            Maybe there’s a subtlety here that I’m missing because I’m not black or liberal, but it sounds to me as though the U.S. Attorney General is saying that his fellow blacks lack the capacity to exercise due diligence when it comes to sizing up candidates for elected office. And here I thought it was supposed to be conservatives who believed that blacks are too dumb to tie their shoes.

            We can risk having those poor, stupid blacks the opportunity to accidentally choose someone because we didn’t have a marker for them to identify.

            1. Can = Can’t

            2. Yes, it is ironic that liberals assume African-Americans are too stupid to pass a police exam and that we need to lower the standards for them.

  19. Funny how the worst most abusive cops can be in some of the most liberal places. New Jersey and New York cops are as bad or worse than anywhere. You would think all of those freedom loving liberals wouldn’t allow that.

    1. What if the checks had never arrived? No doubt the blacks would have fully privatized the welfare state through continued looting.

      1. Okay. Ron Paul is racist so that makes it okay. That makes a lot of sense.

      2. And the WOD would end with an African-American in the Oval Office.

    2. freedom loving liberals

      good one, I see what you did there.

      1. That is just what I have heard.

  20. Wow Sullum, I’d like to see you find nonexistent marijuana without trashing the car it’s in.

    It’s not as easy a job as you seem to think.

    1. +nanotechnology

  21. It seems unusual for police to trash a luxury car during a search given that the owner of such a vehicle would typically have more means, motive, and/or political connections to pursue a civil suit if the police didn’t find anything. Was Richardson “DWB” at the time he was pulled over? It’s the only thing I can think of that would let the police think they could get away with this.

    1. But as long as the car has a note, it has insurance coverage. And insurance companies have no problem suing the state. The cops were just being their usual baboons.

    2. One version of this story I read said the damage of 12k was more than the guy had even paid for the car. So he very well might have not been means, motive or political connections.

  22. Is this stupid trolling going to go on all day?

    1. I wouldn’t call all of it stupid.

  23. If you have nothing to hide, why don’t you want us to completely destroy the interior of your car? huh?


    1. If you loved America, you would gladly sacrifice your car to protect it Brooks.

    2. And Ron Paul is racist. So just submit now and get it over with.


  24. they detected what they later described as a “strong odor of raw marijuana,”

    Yet another story with this twist!

    Again: Demand public double-blind tests of these cops’ purported ability to detect raw marijuana, with failure resulting in immediate firing without pension.

    ** sniff **

    1. What is the difference between raw and cooked marijuana? What does that even mean?

      1. OK, let’s also see if they can tell burning rope or autumn leaves from you-know-what.

      2. Your palate needs work.

      3. Not that I would expect NJ cops to grok the subtlety but cannabis needs to be cured to render it fit for consumption via smoking. This is the hardest part of cultivation, the weed grows easily and readily in almost every climate on Earth but after harvest will rot/mildew/mold quick as a wink if proper curing is delayed. Raw marijuana has an odor quite similar to hay or a freshly mowed lawn. Cured marijuana smells like, well, marijuana. The curing stage is where many budding (get it) farmers drop the ball and ruin their investment.
        Also, fuck New Jersey.

  25. Ron Paul MUST be a racist. How else can you explain the cruelty of his desire to throw poor black men out into the streets, instead of providing them food, shelter and rehabilitation at State expense?

    1. We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but that is hardly irrational.

      1. Drug War puts shitloads of blacks in prison, “Wisdom”.

        Who’s against the Drug War, amongst the current presidential candidate field?

      2. I am ashamed sometimes when I see young black men behind me on the street and become afraid but am not if they are white. (this is paraphrased) But I guess Jessie is a racist too?

        1. Yes, he is. He’s a black liberal, and black liberals hate white people.

          1. They hate black people too.

            1. Yep… I’m hated.

  26. Okay Tworp (teh wizdum of ronnie paul) we get it, we get it . . . and yes, we know you are pulling quotes from the newsletters. Must have an awful lot of time on your hands to post on Twitter an average of once every 20 minutes, not to mention what you post here – unemployed, maybe? Hired political hack? Dondero?

    1. Maybe Max?

  27. ‘Police claimed two different dogs “signaled” the presence of drugs (in two different locations, the trunk and the dashboard)…’

    It’s not clear whether this means that both dogs pointed to both locations, or each dog pointed to one (which would indicate that their handlers neglected to confer beforehand), or what, but it certainly puts an upper limit on the dogs’ accuracy.

    ‘…and speculated that the car may have been used to transport marijuana at some point in the past.’

    I speculate that these police officers may have found bales and bales of marijuana and pocketed it all. I speculate that they may be corrupt through and through, and accustomed to manufacturing evidence, soliciting bribes and molesting female prisoners. I speculate that they may be able to make their dogs “signal” wherever they want, and have no desire to admit to, or even know, their false positive rate.

    Actually, no, that last one isn’t speculation.

    1. I speculate that the police dogs accuracy was compromised by being repeated ass raped by human police officers.

  28. What kind of self-respecting drug dealer would settle for a BMW 325?

  29. So the lesson here is if you want a new car, have a friend rub marijuana on the seats, then get pulled over for a burnt out taillight or something. Let the police and your insurance company do the rest.

    1. ^This^

      It would probably also work at a number of immigration or TSA checkpoints. It wouldn’t take much – the Yuma stop on the I-8 reportedly nabs people with roaches in their luggage.

  30. ARF! ARF!

  31. Can we start calling Rick Santorum “TurdLube” through the election? Santorum just sounds too nasty.

    1. That would be awesomely libertarian.*


      *Typically adolescent

  32. That may well be the coolest thign ever dude.


  33. These cops really *REALLY* screwed up. I’ll bet their superiors took these cops behind the woodshed and put it on them in no uncertain terms. Every LEO knows that you’re not supposed to tear a BMW to shreds looking for a joint and then give it back to an innocent citizen. You’re supposed to seize the BMW under asset forfeiture laws, keep it intact, and take everyone in the department on a joyride. WTF were these guys thinking?

    1. I honestly think some cops get hardons when they put their badge on.

  34. police charged Richardson with evidence tampering

    “Evidence tampering” now means “not actually having any contraband”?

    1. The charges were reduced to “petty disorderly persons offenses.”

      1. The point is they charged them with evidence tampering when there was no evidence of a crime to tamper with. That’s nutty.

      2. I mean, you shouldn’t be charging people with a crime for which you have no evidence. (in this case, no evidence that there ever was any evidence).

        1. Let’s look at this from their POV:

          Since he didn’t stash anything anywhere in his vehicle, *that* is the “evidence tampering” – failing TO stash drugs in his car.

          Next thing you know, people will get pulled over for NOT speeding, thus depriving local coffers of much-needed speeding-fine money.

          1. When the cops see you NOT speeding, this implies that you noticed them first, and then hit the brakes hard.

          2. There was a court case where the cops ticket people for flashing their lights to warn others of a speedtrap ahead.
            IIRC, the tickets were thrown out on free speech grounds.

  35. as you can see here the police who under color of law will accuse and charge citizen with continue crimes even if one is innocent They will continue to accuse and assume over this there cash cow Marijuana which over 1/2 the united states citizen have used or continue to use this war is a war on culture of us all it high time we fight for legalization or come to war with those asshole police who continue to cause fleeing of our citizens
    I personal would love to see you win this law suit don’t accept any plea bargain as it no bargain for you but for them please bring a law suit
    yourself even

  36. Bet they don’t make the mistake of “not finding” te weed again. Ehem.

  37. Pretend to believe the police for a second. It is hard, but let’s honestly do the exercise of seeing the whole event as if they had a good faith belief that the car was being used to transport drugs.

    And they did not find any drugs. Or residue. Or any illegal substances of any kind.

    What the hell was the chief of police thinking! Return a car in such a sad state that it is totaled by the insurance company? No. You have the county attorney eat crow. Offer a cash settlement to the owner of the car. Offer to pay for a rental car while the car was held. Offer to pay for repairs to the car. Issue a statement of apology from the Chief of Police and the Mayor. Hold a press conference and say how disappointed you are with your officers and you are investigating the matter. Suspend the officers without pay until the investigation is completed. Damage control.

    Where the hell was the supervision? Did patrol officers cut open the upholstery without even asking for the go-ahead from some level of supervision? Did they not think to pull it into the shop and roll around under it before ripping off pieces of the car?

    Sadly. No.

    These dumbasses give honest police officers a bad name. When 911 is dailed, someone has to show up. These ass-clowns don’t deserve the support of the community. You act on a hunch… you take a chance. These idiots rolled the dice and now they are acting like it was normal police procedure to destroy someone’s property.

    Yes, the damn car could have been used for transporting drugs. They may have just left a drop-off. But they are innocent until proven guilty. The owner may have purchased the car after it had been used for transporting drugs. He may have bought it at a police auction. It doesn’t really matter that anything is reasonably possible because the damn police bear the burden of proof.

    It says nothing about our society. It is an isolated incident if the damn local citizens forced the actors to show a little damn humility and say so publicly. Fire the dumbasses and move on.

  38. I saw a thing on 60 Minutes several years ago about the “war on drugs” in which narcs told the reporter outright that they knew of several homes where pot was being grown and/or consumed, but they didn’t concern themselves with those places because they weren’t growing enough to be worth their effort. This is to say, as long as what was being grown was for personal consumption and not for selling (except maybe amongst close friends), the cops didn’t care.

    Seems to me a good attitude to take. Granted, many on this board would prefer that pot be altogether legal, but as long as it’s not, I still think the police have better things to do than totaling some poor schmuck’s BMW looking for non-existent drugs, even the cops whose job it is to execute the “war on drugs”.

  39. Troops total Iraqi civilians while looking for nonexistent WMDs?

  40. Wow that is just insane! Cops are really so stupid sometimes. They just seem to want to do anything they can to try and bust people these days.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.