Drug Policy

How a Single Oxycontin Pill Nearly Ruined One Man's Life

Jail may be the worst thing that can happen to a drug offender, but it's not the only thing.


Over the last several years, media outlets have reported hundreds of horror stories about Florida's prescription drug epidemic. News consumers have been treated to stories about crooked doctors, shady pharmacists, and pill-popping addicts with violent tendencies and bad parenting skills. But as is so often the case with drug war coverage, there's more to the story than that. 

There are nonviolent offenders who aren't addicts, or dealers, or scammers. You don't hear their stories from drug warriors, because they can't be used to bolster the case for prohibition. You also don't hear their stories from bipartisan drug policy reformers, because these people don't need addiction recovery treatment. They don't really need anything at all. 

Nevertheless, many of these people have had their lives turned upside down in the name of public safety and public health, and are worse off for it, financially and emotionally. We asked Reason magazine's Facebook followers to tell us if they knew someone who had been put through the wringer after being caught with a small amount of drugs. We promised anonymity, so long as we could verify their claims. A man who we'll call "James" reached out to us. This is his story. 

* * *

James was pulled over for speeding in 2006 in Vero Beach, Florida while driving back to his home in Jacksonville after a concert. The officer who pulled him over said the car smelled like marijuana, and asked to conduct a search. James agreed, because neither he nor his passenger had been using drugs. When his passenger was found to be in possession of a pipe and several screens (but no marijuana), the officer searched James. His pockets were empty save for a single Oxycontin pill. James told the officer he received the pill from a friend at the concert, but that he had never tried Oxycontin, and intended to give it away.  

A second officer was called to the scene. James' passenger was arrested for possession of paraphernalia, and James was arrested for illegal possession of a prescription narcotic.

The next morning, James' mother drove to Indian River County to plead for a lightening of her son's bond. She told the judge that James, then 24, was both a full-time graduate student at the University of North Florida and a full-time stock broker with Merrill Lynch. James' lawyer advised him to plead no-contest, saying he would likely get probation and then have his record expunged.

"After being assured that the penalty would be light," James told Reason in an email, "it turned into a bigger ordeal than I could ever imagine."

The judge who heard James' case accepted the no-contest plea. Then he began stacking on penalties. 

Despite having no criminal record and never having taken Oxycontin, James was required to attend two Narcotics Anonymous meetings a week for an entire year, and 15 weekend-long state-run drug classes (the latter he was required to pay for). Despite the fact that he was going to school at night for his MBA, James was given a curfew, and had to be inside his own home between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day of the week, for the entire year. As a final punishment, the judge instructed James to immediately report his arrest to his employer, and to let his probation officer know when he had done so.

With his case settled, James returned to Jacksonville and told his boss at Merrill Lynch what happened. His supervisor told him not to worry. A week later, he was instructed to modify his broker's license to reflect that he'd pled no-contest to drug possession. This is both a federal and a state-level requirement, generally meant to protect investors. It ended up ruining James's career. The modification to his license triggered an internal warning at Merrill Lynch. The firm placed him on paid leave for two weeks, and then fired him.

Once James's probation officer found out he'd been let go, she required him to bring with him to their meetings a list of every job for which he'd applied since they last met. His probation officer then called each and every company's HR department to verify that James had actually applied.

"I am sure once the HR department at my prospective job talked to her, that my resume was thrown away," James wrote in an email.

It took James a month to find a new job, but it wasn't with a financial firm. Instead, he was hired on as a short order cook by a woman had opened a restaurant after an underage drinking charge prevented her from teaching.

The humiliation didn't end there. Twice a week, he sat in Narcotics Anonymous meetings, despite not being addicted—or even recreationally using—narcotics. At his state-run drug class, he listened to a facilitator warn against the dangers of drinking BC Powder and Coca Cola, watched Meg Ryan fall in love with Tom Hanks over and over ("three of my 15 weekends were spent watching movies," he says), and was frequently told, along with other participants, that if they were going to test positive for drugs, to just let the facilitator know. For $200, they could re-enroll in the state's drug course without their probation officers finding out.

"Later," says James, "I was told that the guy who collected our money every week for treatment was fired for doing cocaine in the back room."

All of this was supposed to be temporary. James hoped that after 12 months, his record would be wiped, and he could find his way back into the finance industry.  

He was wrong. While his probation officer told James that he could break curfew if he was working late (and only then), she didn't tell him that he needed permission from the judge do so. This led to him being charged with violating his probation, and the extension of his punishment until March 2008. And those two years were more than enough time for every third-party private background-check company in the state to register him as having pled no contest to a possession charge.

Thanks to the records maintained by those third-party companies, he had trouble finding a new place to live, even after his record with the state had been expunged. "I lost out on at least five jobs as a direct result of having this on my record, even though it is not technically on my record," James says. "I even relocated for jobs just to have them notify me the day before or even after two weeks of training that they could not hire me due to this."

One insurance firm agreed to hire James if he could present an official copy of his criminal record that explained the circumstances of his arrest. "When I tried to explain to them that it was expunged," James says, and thus didn't exist, they said it was company policy. "A few weeks later, someone from HR called and said, 'We understand if you think this is not worth your time.'"

The experience has changed not just James's life, but his thinking about drug policy.

"I could really see how someone could get caught 'in the system' and have a stigma attached to them, and, for people with, say, a high school diploma, why they would just resort to drug dealing, or worse, because the government prevented their ability to find a job due to this," James said.

"It's sad that the government creates this group of 'drug offenders' who are not harming anyone, be it pot smokers or pill poppers, and then indirectly prevents them from getting jobs. Once you get something like this on your record, it is either start your own business or become under-employed."

* * *

Today, James is happily married (he met his wife while working at the restaurant), has a child, and is studying for a second graduate degree. He's also out of the kitchen, but says he is still underemployed as a result of his arrest six years ago.

As horrifying as the last six years of James's life have been, an actual Oxycontin addict would be lucky to have his fate: In Florida, the possession of just seven prescription pain pills (a hardcore user can go through that many before lunch) qualifies as drug trafficking, and comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of three years.

I asked Greg Newburn, director of the Florida chapter of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, what would happen if James had been caught with a single pill today, at the height of hysteria over prescription pill abuse.

"He probably wouldn't be facing any mandatory sentence for just one pill," Newburn said. "More than likely he'd probably be charged with possession of a controlled substance, which is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a level 3 offense under the Criminal Punishment Code. Assuming no priors, that only scores a 16, so no prison time would be required, but the judge could still give up to five years," Newburn said.

Considering what a judge could have done to him, James got off pretty easy. But six years later, it doesn't feel that way at all. 

NEXT: Iran: No Revolution in Syria

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  1. A real pity since James’ only real offense was being dumb.

    1. And for a drug that was (minus modern enhancements) over the counter 100 years ago.

  2. This is seriously depressing. How can people along the way, not see the injustice perpetrated, and try to lighten his load in any small way they can? I think I know, but it’s just difficult to process.

    1. By the time you see the injustice of it all, you’re a felon and no longer able to vote.

      1. Meh, this happens enough to tell me that this is what people want. This is the country they want to live in. It’s not going to change, and I’m not going to feel bad for them.

        1. I don’t know about that. I think it’s more that they feel powerless to do actually do anything. They get momentarily inspired when they see Tea Party folks, then watch as those same TPers are vilified by both sides.

          1. Right.

            If you question the war on drug users, then you want children to use drugs.

            Why do you want children to use drugs?

          2. No, if people were against it, they would act like I would act after something like this happened. No one ever has.

            1. Define “act”.

            2. WG,
              a big part of what you’re asking is for folks inside the bureaucracy to rebel against it. That won’t happen for several reasons like career protection and sheer numbness at having been part of the Borg for some time. And few politicians are willing to campaign against stupid laws becasue opponents portray them as weak against crime, hating the childrenz, etc.

              1. I’m not asking anything. I agree with everything you just said.

                Why people want this government is pretty much irrelevant. The fact that they do, and will want and have it forever is the salient point.

                Well that and the fact that I have decided to just laugh at them when stuff like this happens. But that’s not really a big issue.

                1. silence does imply approval, doesn’t it.

                  1. silence does imply approval, doesn’t it.

                    Or a sense of powerlessness.

                  2. I don’t know if it does or not, but it certainly doesn’t imply (or assert) disapproval.

                    1. There is a such thing as quiet disapproval.

                      Especially with regards to drug policy, where vocal disapproval can result in social shunning or even losing your job.

                    2. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

                      As long as they stay quite, this will continue. They deserve to be shunned.

                2. But these kinds of stories rarely make it into the MSM. If more of them were publicized, just possibly we could move toward policies that made more sense. I am not quite as cynical as you. Yet …..

            3. I’m not sure I can agree. How many simply don’t see it? It’s not like you’re going to see news stories on the poor stockbroker who lost everything for one pill.

      2. We have so many laws already and so conflicted, that probably every law abiding citizen has committed a felony.

        Our system ruined this guy, but the City of Seattle won’t prosecute car thieves until the 6th offense. DUH!

        We will not have a broker that once had a pill, but we can have a President that admitted to trying Coke. DUH!

        1. Well of course they won’t prosecute the car thieve. That would take up valuable prison space that could be used for some kid who had an oxycotin.

        2. Fortunately, we still won’t elect Presidents who try Pepsi, but it’s still an awful situation…

  3. How can people along the way, not see the injustice perpetrated, and try to lighten his load in any small way they can?

    Because each and every one is being paid not to help him out. Vile individuals all.

    1. Yup, beat me to it. All of these scum-suckers are profiting from the system that is making this guys life hell.

  4. Every time something like this happens to someone and they don’t go on a Law Abiding Citizen type rampage, civilization takes a step backwards.

    1. but even when the guy is clearly screwed by a dysfunctional system, the clear message is that you can only fight back by becoming something no one can support. And that leaves out a whole lotta obvious gaffes in the narrative involving the Butler character.

      1. I don’t know, I always stop the movie 15 minutes before the end.

        Yeah, when you have no other options, violent absurdism is always the best response.

        1. These people read Kafka as life’s little instruction book.

  5. and this state is poised to put the chief proponent of this madness, AG Pam Bondi – one of the darlings of the conservative media – into the governor’s mansion once Rick Scott is done. She’ll likely campaign on themes like limited govt, putting govt on the side of the people, and lots of other stuff she has no actual intention of doing.

    There are two differences between liberals and social conservatives:
    –the areas in which they are willing to use state force to get their way
    –liberals are upfront about being statists; so-cons are a lot sneakier about it

    1. I would likely have been classified as so-con, not too many years ago (and likely still, to some). I would never have supported completely unjustified penalties and punishments like this, just for possession. I’m certain that those I know that are clearly so-con, would agree with me on that.

      Politicians, and those in the justice system, seem to overcompensate for hard criminals getting minimal sentences, by throwing the book at those who did little to nothing wrong, but somehow ended up in the system. It’s pretty sick.

  6. Jesus Christ. I was going to get some lunch – now I have a stomach ache, so I think I’ll skip it.


  7. Everyone thinks of the prison industrial complex when thinking of the drug war. But don’t forget the rehab industry is in many ways just as bad or even worse.

    1. The rehab industry isn’t limited to drugs.

      Alcohol, parenting, anti-violence… the list of mandatory treatment programs is endless.

      1. All run by cronies. And all peddling utter bullshit cargo cult “science”.

  8. this happens enough to tell me that this is what people want. This is the country they want to live in.

    I saw some documentary about teh skoolz, much of which was typical inchoate lefty huffing and puffing, a while back. However, there was a segment about a high school principal who called in SWAT to his school, presumably to “scare the little hippies straight”. They had the security cam footage of the fucking pigs terrorizing 15/16/17 year old kids: screaming, waving guns in their faces, plasti-cuffing them, roaming up and down with their snarling dogs, total insanity. And, of course, there were teachers eagerly assisting.

    How is it that the citizens of that town did not rise up, march en masse to the principal’s house and burn it down with him inside and then hang all the members of the school board by their heels from lampposts?

    They must have been okay with it.

    1. They must have been okay with it.

      Anyone who objects is inviting the cops to break down their door and kill the family pet.

  9. It’s a little frustrating, because:

    1. You never allow a search. Always refuse.

    2. If you’re pulled over and you have ONE Oxy pill in your pocket…swallow it.

    Defy and evade the law, dude. If you’re not prepared to defy and evade, don’t drive a car.

    1. 1. You never allow a search. Always refuse.

      They should teach this in drivers’ ed.

    2. Once upon a time, I would have been appalled by this. However, the more stupid laws are passed, and the more nothing is inflated into reason to ruin your life for years, the more I agree.

      The ridiculousness of much of the law, and it’s over zealous enforcement succeeds in eroding otherwise law abiding citizens, respect for that law and enforcement.

      1. With the exception of traffic stops, most people don’t have much interaction with law enforcement.

        It’s only after they’ve been the victim of a crime, or caught doing something harmless yet illegal, that they learn to despise law enforcement.

        I was watching COPS last night for a little bit, and the cops managed to find an excuse to arrest everyone who called them for help. Some were ‘he said she said’ domestic violence, some had had too much to drink and/or showed insufficient respect to the officer, and of course there were the dummies who submitted to being searched.

        They all learned a valuable life lesson: Don’t call the cops unless you want to go to jail.

        1. That is not a good sample. Most cops are too lazy to arrest people. It involves a lot of paperwork. You have to either be really unlucky or stupid to get a cop to arrest you.

          And the domestic violence shit is not the cops’ fault. It is the idiotic laws that mandate someone must be arrested anytime the cops show up.

          1. There was a time in my life where I found COPS to be an entertaining show.

            Now I find it to be infuriating.

            1. I have always found it to be infuriating. Every scene is one of two things, either someone who makes me wonder why cops just don’t shoot people or a cop doing something that makes me wonder why people don’t just shoot cops. Every single person on that show is grating and infuriating.

              1. what’s amazing is that everytime you see an incident on COPS, the people involved signed a RELEASE to air the video

                i have had COPS film with me, and we had a SUPER sweet incident where guy threw a butcher knife at me and my partner, tried to light himself and his house on fire, the whole nine yards

                but he wouldn’t sign the release, so it didn’t air

                everytime you see some guy on cops, he signed a release

                1. That is the true testament to some people’s stupidity: The fact that they are willing to display their stupidity before an international audience of millions.

                  1. it makes for great tv. and imo, COPS is a great show and part of the reaosn why so many people respect police. they watch COPS and see what we deal with, and how we handle it

                    and i love that reasonoids are in a little niche minority in regards to public support for cops

                2. I find myself wishing that guy had had better aim.

                  1. And no, people don’t watch COPS because they enjoy bacon.
                    The percentage of people who love pigs is eroding. Soon you’re be down there with realtors and car salesmen.

                    1. i have no idea if it’s eroding or not.

                      if you have evidence to support that, present it.

                      the last i checked , the polls are RELATIVELY consistent year to year for respect etc. of police.

                    2. Most recent data I can find shows it is in fact in decline at least between 1999-2005 by nearly 20% in that time frame.


            2. You want to experience rage?

              Watch Campus PD.

              It’s like watching Cops, except with an even more ridiculous crime set.

              I keep watching it, hoping for an episode where some kid getting hassled for underage drinking hits some rent a cop in the head with a bat, but unfortunately that never happens.

              1. i agree. the petty bullshit is ridiculous

                where i went to college in socal, the cops were cool. they did not run around trying to cite people for underage drinking and shit like that.

                1. I’ve gotten 3 MIPs, and each time I was the one to pass a field sobriety test, and then tapped by the cops to drive everyone home. Fuck the police.

                  1. lol

                    you know this is just a sneaking suspicion, but like many reasonoids and their negative cop stories i am HIGHLY suspicious that at least part of the reason for their negative encounters was their attitude.

                    hey maybe you show respect and common courtesy in the real world, but the reality is (like it or not and whether or not it’s cosmically fair), if you act like a dickhead to cops (and note that being patronizing and giving off vibes that you think they are assholes and/or vastly more intelligent than them. and note – we are intuitive. interview/interrogate thousands of people and you pick up that skill), you are less likely to get a good result

                    in the case of discretionary shit (like MIP is in MANY if not most dept’s), being respectful can often lead to a “break”.

                    granted, with some cops/agencies., they are zero tolerance with that shit, though

                    luck of the draw. i can just say at UCSB you probably had to be a raging dickhead to get cited for minor in possession. neither me or any of my friends got cited thusly and we were MIP a fucking lot

                    i played in a band and the cops thus frequently responded to shut us down for noise complaints. but they were always cool about it.

                    a friend of mine was a dickhead to them once, and they seized his amp as “evidence”. which it was if the crime is disturbing the peace.

                    lesson: play nice.

                    treat one and all with respect

                    1. Why would I respect some steroid-=abusing wife beater with a badge?
                      The only reason you get to push your self-important weight around is because you have a baton, a gun, pepper spray, a tazer, etc.
                      Take away your dick extensions and you’re a petty bureaucrat with about 6 weeks of education at community college. Probably the high school dumb ass.

                    2. case in point

                      thank you for demonstrating it.

                      it is SO true in life, in so many areas (interpersonal, work, recreation, etc.) that attitude is strongly determinative of outcome

                      people like you are your own worse enemy

                    3. It’s not rocket science. “Why would I respect…” You would respect the LEO in order to avoid the unpleasant consequences of not respecting the LEO. You will not win a philosophical argument with an LEO; you will not prevail by pointing out that without his/her badge and without his/her dick/pussy extension they are but a mere mortal, ad nauseum. What some cop-haters don’t realize is that when they are interacting with an LEO on the street or wherever, the LEO is GOD. So in order to have a good outcome from your interaction with the p?lice, you show the proper respect and kiss his/her okole appropriately. Then when you get home, you can call up your local radio talk show and vent your frustrations without getting arrested.

                    4. hey maybe you show respect and common courtesy in the real world, but the reality is (like it or not and whether or not it’s cosmically fair), if you act like a dickhead to cops (and note that being patronizing and giving off vibes that you think they are assholes and/or vastly more intelligent than them. and note – we are intuitive. interview/interrogate thousands of people and you pick up that skill), you are less likely to get a good result

                      So your new theory is that, even though I don’t act like a dick, they are reading my mind and responding to that? So it’s still my fault? Dear god this shit is getting tiresome. Most cops I’ve interacted with are hot-tempered, quick-on-the-draw dickheads. Unless what you actually mean by respect isn’t respect at all, and is instead fawning obsequiousness. That’s what you mean, isn’t it? That kiss the ring shit? Like how you called me an asshole the other day for not wanting a cop to yell at me less than a foot from my face?

                      So what would you suggest? Hit my knees and do a full-on homage to allah whenever a cop walks by? Would that be “respectful” enough?

                      You act like I’m making this up, when there are articles about not just my PD, but my fucking neighborhood that hit the national news cycle to back me up. Where’s your proof that cops don’t act like dicks most of the time? Cause as far as I can see, we’ve just got your word for it. And you have plenty of reasons to be dishonest about it.

                    5. dood. it’s not a new theory. it’s basic “how to get along with people.”

                      i realize you HAVE to argue for the sake of argument. it’s like a fucking axiom for you.

                      but again. i have noticed a high correlation between people who have no interpersonal skills and.or are … frankly… assholes and negative experiences with cops.

                      yes, i am sure your characterization of cops is spot on (rolls eyes), but the actual reality is that cops, like almost ANY real person in the real world, prefers to be treated with basic respect and dignity

                      i’ve been a cop for 20 yrs, and i find that if you treat people, whether the worst spracked out meth-head felon, or sally soccer mom with some basic respect and decency, you TEND to (with rare exception) get the same treatment back.

                      sure, there are exceptions. some people are going to be an asshole either way. just like some people are never going to comply with cops. they are usually the ones who string up arrests over the years for assaulting other people and.or cops, resisting arrest, and other shit like that, until they either

                      1) actually learn from experience and change their ways
                      2) antagonize the wrong guy at the wrong bar and get knocked into a coma

                      where’s my proof that cops don’t act like dicks most of the time? there’s no way to PROVE that, but the reality is it’s a fact that most people respect cops and over and over again polling shows pretty high levels of public support.

                    6. if cops REALLY were the way you and ignorati thought we were, we wouldnt have such high levels of support, and we wouldn’t constantly get everyday people who really try to help us in our job – ALL OF US – which is to make our communities safer.

                      fine. maybe you live somewhere where all the cops are assholes. and maybe you are an asshole too. those aren’t mutually exclusive. but like i said, people like you, it’s the same syndrome with people who can never admit they are wrong on the internet –

                      you just gotta be an asshole. because you are bitter about how you are just SO much smarter than that dumb cop making 110k a year on a high school diploma and you DESERVE the utmost respect and plus the first amendment means you can say whatever you want and the cop can’t do jackshit about it so you migh as well call him an asshole ot his face and…

                      the public are our ALLIES in fighting crime. i constantly see public support.

                      i go to lunch and some guy (unbeknownst to me until i try to pay) pays for my meal anonymously (and it’s not like taking a gratuity. nothing i can do about after somebody ELSE paid except leave a big tip).

                      some parent approaches me and asks me if I can say high to their 10 yr old son and what a thrill it would be to talk to a cop.

                      i’m at a burg and somebody (with NO possible benefit to themself) tells me before i leave how much respect they have for what i do and thanks me for being so helpful and making it easier to deal with their loss etc. etc.

                    7. those are common occurrences. so, sorry, my n= metric assloads and it says you are full of shit

                      like i said, you are the kind of person that likely perpetuates your own misery. you have this chip on your shoulder, you act like a dick, and it comes back at you.

                      instant karma is a bitch, man.

                      i hate to sound like a hippy, but i really DO believe, that if you act with respect towards your fellow man, if you have love in your heart, not hate PEOPLE CAN SENSE it and you simply create a better world.

                      if you approach ANY situation with another human being with the ASSUMPTION THAT – this guy is going to be a dick and i am better than him and he’s just a statist tool and…

                      seriously, what amazes me is how people can be obviously pretty well educated, smart, etc. etc. and yet just be such complete tards when it comes to basic human interaction

                      that’s one thing about 20 yrs of police work, is i deal with people from all walks of life (like i never even would have seen the inside of a trailer park if i wasn’t a cop) and that people are basically good, and have good horse sense and treat others with basic respect

                      and then there are people like you

                    8. here’s a hint… if you think it’s always everybody else (HE was an asshole not me, *I* am way smarter than everybody else, it was HIS fault not mine) etc. – it’s probably you.

                      again, i don’t care if i sound like a hippy, because it’s probably the most profound and constantly reinforced lesson i’ve learned on the streets – the love you take is equal to the love you make

                    9. if you think it’s always everybody else (HE was an asshole not me, *I* am way smarter than everybody else, it was HIS fault not mine) etc. – it’s probably you.

                      It’s not everybody else, it’s cops. It’s not like I’m making a complicated point here, do try and keep up.

                    10. like i said, you are the kind of person that likely perpetuates your own misery. you have this chip on your shoulder, you act like a dick, and it comes back at you.

                      instant karma is a bitch, man.

                      I have been accused of a lot of things, but not one single person who knows me has ever accused me of acting like a dick. Shit, I had to learn how to do it to women in bars fairly recently just to get laid more often. I have to consciously turn it on.

                      Now I know you need to believe this, but it simply isn’t true. That’s why your constant defense of cops rankles so much. From my perspective, it’s like you’re coming in here and telling me that it’s my fault cause my skirt was too short. I was just asking for it.

                    11. From my perspective, it’s like you’re coming in here and telling me that it’s my fault cause my skirt was too short. I was just asking for it.

                      Left off a part…

                      While the whole time I was wearing pants.

                    12. if cops REALLY were the way you and ignorati thought we were, we wouldnt have such high levels of support,

                      You always refer to these polls. I have never seen one posted. You gotta cite for that?

                    13. i have posted many. i will post one more(although i can’t see why you simply can;’t google it. these are hardly obscure)

                      Gallup Poll. Sept. 24-Nov. 16, 1999. N=2,006 adults nationwide (MoE ? 4), including, with an oversample, 1,001 blacks (MoE +/- 5) and 934 whites (MoE ? 4).

                      ALL Blacks Whites
                      % % %
                      “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of your local police?”
                      Favorable 81 58 85
                      Unfavorable 17 36 13
                      Don’t know/Refused 2 6 2

                    14. Gallup Poll. Sept. 24-Nov. 16, 1999.

                      I didn’t realize you were getting your information from the last century. That explains a few things.

                    15. People treat you with respect because most people are good people. Cops treat people with disdain and violate their rights because cops are bad people. I have never met a single police officer who treats people respectfully or is in any way humbly doing his/her job. You are all a bunch of classless assholes. The world would be a better place if every one of you killed yourselves.

                    16. It’s like you wrote a long reply but didn’t actually read anything but the last 3 sentences. I don’t consider my comments required reading or anything, but if you’re going to give a long-winded response, it could at least a response to what I said.

                      dood. it’s not a new theory. it’s basic “how to get along with people.”

                      You have previously said, numerous times, that I must be acting like a dick to cops. Which is an incredibly stupid thing to do when a cop can get away with killing you if he says he say your hand go near your waist (no other qualifications necessary). Since any reading of my comment history here would quickly put the “coeus is an idiot” theory to rest (you can say honestly say wrong-headed or mis-informed, you’d be wrong, but you could be honestly wrong), your new theory is that cops are picking up on my thoughts. So yes, it is a new theory.

                      Newsflash, cops aren’t the only people who interrogate people for a living, my father was another. As was my mom. And if I can fool them regularly, than it’s pretty fucking easy to temporarily hide my contempt for the hot-tempered dickhead looking for an excuse to exercise his authority.

                    17. “You have previously said, numerous times, that I must be acting like a dick to cops.”

                      what i have said is that “you know this is just a sneaking suspicion, but like many reasonoids and their negative cop stories i am HIGHLY suspicious that at least part of the reason for their negative encounters was their attitude.

                      i have no idea how you actually act.

                      i am STRONGLY suspicious since in my real world experience, it is very LIKELY to be true that people who have constant grievances about bad experiences with cops and/or have a major chip on their shoulder create their own problems

                      i have just seen it way too often to be true.

                      i have said this before, and i’ll sign off with it.

                      you are more likely to be treated with respect/love/compassion IN GENERAL (whether with cops or others) if you do the same.

                    18. Unlike some around here I am not someone who gives you shit Dunphy, but this quote:

                      hey maybe you show respect and common courtesy in the real world, but the reality is (like it or not and whether or not it’s cosmically fair), if you act like a dickhead to cops (and note that being patronizing and giving off vibes that you think they are assholes and/or vastly more intelligent than them. and note – we are intuitive. interview/interrogate thousands of people and you pick up that skill), you are less likely to get a good result

                      Sounds too much like a “She was asking to be raped because she was dressed like a whore” defense…it smacks of a typical blame the victim mentality.

                      Just because someone was acting like a dick to a cop is not a reason for the cop to act like a bully with a gun right back. In fact, I would say the cop has a greater responsibility not to sink to that level. (Great power/Great responsibility and all that).

                    19. Just because someone was acting like a dick to a cop is not a reason for the cop to act like a bully with a gun right back. In fact, I would say the cop has a greater responsibility not to sink to that level. (Great power/Great responsibility and all that).

                      That’s true, and he did say something along those lines earlier. He was speaking in general, and he has a point. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. My problem is that, among myself and my friends, none of us are dumb enough to act like that, and we still get fucked with. But he’s just certain that we must be lying about it.

      2. Why were you ever appalled by people asserting their rights? I’m confused.

    3. The article says the cop stated that he “smelled marijuana” which is sufficient for probable cause for a search. You can’t refuse if they “smell marijuana”.

      1. yes, but depending on the state they still need to get a warrant GIVEN that probable cause.

        in my state, smell of marijuana smoke may be probable cause (considering the totality of the circ’s) but we still need a warrant. that’s because my state (hint: WA is better… less police power) does not recognize the “motor vehicle exception” to search warrants that most states do

        conclusion: WA is better. less police power, more privacy.

      2. There is a good video on the web about deal with a cop stop. They always smell drugs. You just say you don’t and that they can’t search. They have to go into town and get a warrent which is far too much work for a cop.

        This guy needed a good lawyer. He could have beat the system. But you keep your mouth shut around the police. To say he was going to pass the pill on was stupid and he needed to lose his job if he is that dumb.

        We need new drug laws, or none. What we are doing now makes not sense. There really is no such thing as addiction. People who use drugs are going to do so no matter what while the rest of us suffer.

        1. lol. what utter rubbish. support by data that they “always smell drugs”

          what %age of stops do cops claim to smell drugs?

          can you support your bullshit claim with data?

          of course not.

          hint: the vast majority of car stops do not result in search pursuant to cops claim of smelling drugs

          you are full of shit and cannot support your bullshit claims

          that aside, you are correct. we need to dismantle the war on drugs

          but your premise is wrong

          1. I think, in all seriousness and without trying to hate on cops, that during a traffic stop an officer will typically look at the vehicle, the driver, and the passengers, and if he thinks they look like “druggies”, he’ll assert that he smells drugs to have a basis for a search, whether he smells drugs or not.

            This is a prosaic observation. If someone can claim the authority to undertake an act based on a subjective perception, they will claim to have that subjective perception at times and places where they want to undertake the act.

            If every time someone claimed to smell a fart, you had to give them $20, it’s pretty likely that on balance they’d smell a fart whenever they felt like taking your $20.

            1. i think that’s rubbish. and we can disagree

              statistically, i’d say that in less than 3% of traffic stops have i smelled mj.

              almost without fail, in such cases, you can either SEE the fucking smoke as they open the windows, they admit to smoking mj in the car, they admit there is MJ in the car, etc.

              fortunately, my agency allows us to give warnings for MJ, and i have done so.

              regardless in some jurisdictions (not mine. because in WA we have a right to privacy), smell of MJ is PC to search the car, and sometimes a LOT is found besides mj, such as “hard drugs”, stolen guns, etc.

              regardless, let’s be real. mj offers cops (in most states) a legalized fishing expedition to search a car, and if we fucking get rid of the war on drugs, we get rid of that excuse to violate privacy

              also, if you are driving down the road and smoking bud, and you get pulled over by the cops, you were the one who exercised the stupidity that might result in your car getting searched. if roadtrippers made, for instance, pot brownies, they wouldn’t GIVE the cops PC to search their car.

              as long as the DRIVER isn’t smoking, since it impairs driving ability, i personally could not care less, but that’s me

        2. The police have an unbelievable amount of power. I agree that he probably should have invested in a good lawyer willing to fight for him, but that wouldn’t guarantee him a victory over the “system.” He faced a mandatory sentence, gave permission to search his vehicle, and was in possession of a controlled substance.

          Refusing to let the officer search the car may have not worked at all. In my experience, it’s about 50/50 on an outright refusal working. PC is just about anything, and depending on the state you’re in, LEOs have a LOT of discretion regarding PC. Not only that, the reality is- cops often search vehicles illegally, lie about consent, and get away with it. Worth a shot, tho, don’t ever just LET them search ya.

          Shoulda hid it in his butt. Idk if having a first time Oxy user driving around high as a kite woulda ended any better for him.

    4. It looks like this guy wasn’t even a “recreational user” and probably had no idea what he was getting into. He probably wasn’t even thinking about the pill when he got pulled. Basically he was about as prepared for this search I would be for a ballet recital. How do you expect someone to be ready for this when they’ve never been exposed to it at all?

      1. I know, I keep thinking how his life woulda turned out soooo differently if he woulda been popped for MJ when he was 16 or something. What a shame.

    5. If this guy made a mistake, it was the mistake of a generally law abiding citizen. Most of us aren’t trained or inclined to look at the police adversarially. No doubt the guy figured he wasn’t a criminal and had nothing to fear from the police.

  10. The experience has changed not just James’s life, but his thinking about drug policy.


    1. funny the way that works

  11. It’s too bad this guy will never get the opportunity to sit in a room with the Smirking-Douchebag-in-Chief and tell this story.

    1. Obama wouldn’t give a shit. Drug convictions are something that happens to commoners.

    2. Yeah, I wonder where Obama would be now if he had been caught in a traffic stop with “maybe a little blow.”

      1. Probably in a dead-end job somewhere in Chicago. Which would have been the sole positive event in the entire War on Drugs.

  12. This is another reminder that the correct response to a “Request” from an officer to search your car or your person is “I’m sorry Officer, but I don’t consent to searches without a warrant”.

    1. in general, i agree. and fwiw, i have gotten dozens of warrants in such cases of refusal.

      but imo, it is good policy to refuse searches, although i deal with scores of people every year who agree to same (just the other day, a defense attorney did – we were looking for a hit and run suspect who had run into her house… and then run out) – defense attorney consented to the search without negative consequences.

      a LOT of people consent to searches ime.

    2. A bullet to the head would be better.

  13. 1) it is the legislator’s fault that we arrest for he said/she said domestic violence assault. ignorant reasonoids always blame the wrong person

    domestic violence assault, etc is the ONLY crime in the state of WA (well, that and DV order violations) that i am mandated BY LAW to arrest given probable cause. and if i don’t arrest, i can be sued.

    if i DO make an arrest, as long as i act in good faith, i have immunity from lawsuits

    this is also the ONLY type of arrest where this is the case

    the RCW actually encourages arrests when the facts are NOT clear. it says that we must arrest the “primary aggressor”. iow, if one party is 55 % responsible and the other part 45% responsible, we are mandated to arrest the 55%’er

    we are strongly discouraged by both dept. policies and the RCW from arresting both parties.

    1. every DV call we go to we have to weed through mountains of he said/she said bullshit, conflicting physical evidence, past history (does the RP have a history of false complaints, etc. mental issues), and the fact that AGAIN WE ARE MANDATED BY LAW to arrest in many circs

      give me a garden variety bullshit assault and we NEVER arrest (at least i don;t).

      it’s either mutual combat bullshit with the loser making the complaint (tuff shit) or some other shit we didn’t witness, so at best we will document a case and let the prosecutor decide who to charge if anybody

      it is the domestic violence industry, VAWA, radical feminists, etc. that make these results in re DV arrests, not cops

      and reason NEVER criticizes the war on DV. it’s always war on drugs. imo, the war on DV is way more likely to result in arrests of ACTUAL innocents

      1. You continually say this, and it simply isn’t true. There is a search function on this site, I suggest you use it before shitting your misinformation all over the thread.

        1. if that;’s true, then i applaud reason, and retract my statement.

          i certainly see a metric assload of articles about the excesses of the WOD and don’t recall ever seeing one about the WO DV, but if reason has given such attention (even though they obviously do so exceedingly rarely compared to the WOD excesses which are documented many times a seek), then props to reason.

          and i stand corrected.

  14. oxycontin is a wonderfully effective drug. i’ve been prescribed it, and dilaudid, in relation to trauma (surgery, etc.), etc.

    it’s pretty sad that some doctors are getting terrified to prescribe it to legitimate patients because of fear of the DEA and in some cases, state legislation that places absurd restrictions on C-II and C-III opioid scripts.

    legitimate pain patients, 60 yr old longterm back pain patients, etc. are being dropped by their doctors and forced to fend for themselves in the state of WA.

    all out of fear of (god forbid) overdose (which 99% of the time is because the user is grossly abusing the drug and not using it as prescribed), or god forbid the person MIGHT be abusing the drug

    it’s a fucking joke.

  15. In my profession, I see things like this happening a lot. It’s a really sad state of affairs, especially given the common knowledge that harsher penalties don’t deter crimes. But sadly, it seems that a majority of people think we need to “get tough on drug crimes” in order to “protect our children and keep the streets safe”, they think this UNTIL one of their children gets caught up in this terrible, draconian system. In a very real way a simply drug conviction in the US is tantamount to a life sentence for some people. They may not be in prison for life, but many oportunities they might once have had might be gone for life. Try getting a good job with a felony, try going on a vacation to a different country, try getting college loans. Employers see that felony box checked “yes” and into the trash the application goes.

    This “war on drugs” is a miserable failure and everyone knows it. The problem is that law enforcement agencies and the industries that serve them are as much addicted to the money as the “offenders” they arrest are addicted to substances.

  16. In ’93 I basically disowned a friend of mine after hearing about him on the local radio station (KIBS) and paper (Inyo County Register). He was in jail for “possession of a saw-off shotgun with drug related charges”. The only possession he had that had been worth a darn had been a pretty horse and I had turned it into an ugly horse having rolled it off a cliff in the back country just a short time before the “crime spree”. After he got out of jail I ran into him and heard the details. He had some ‘friends’ (Vietnam veterans from VA) show up to his house and the Inyo County Sheriffs dropped by. His ‘friends’ had small quantities of marijuana on them. The sheriffs searched the house and found a 410 lady’s pistol (unrifled/smoothbore) that hadn’t been shot in decades because of rust. The heirloom actually belonged to his wife who worked for the USFS and couldn’t afford an employment disruption, much less a felony. He pleaded guilty to quickly get out of jail (felony).
    His ‘friends’ did not own real estate, so they were not important to the “crime spree”.
    KIBS never mentioned it again (like the details) nor did the Inyo County Register.
    Drug Warriors, don’t you love them?

    His horse stayed ugly.

  17. Why are we throwing you in jail where you can be raped, catch AIDS and have your professional life ruined with a life-long criminal record? Because that one pill may adversely affect your health dumbass!

  18. Why are we throwing you in jail where you can be raped, catch AIDS and have your professional life ruined with a life-long criminal record? Because that one pill may adversely affect your health dumbass!

    Yes, I love how the federal government acts sooo concerned with public health, yet they refuse to open their eyes and see the potential benefit for the use of canibus in some medical cases. Cancer patients finding RELIEF from symptoms with canibus are jailed “for their own good”?

    We aren’t “free” in the US, not by a long shot. But our masters have done a “masterful” job of making 90% of us (mere wage slaves) believe that we are. They have divided us into “R” and “D” and conquered us. It may be time for the new American revolution. It’s time for our elected politicians to actually represent the will of the people.

    1. The medical marijuana excuse is so abused that it seems more like a big scam than a real medical use. The potheads have ruined it for the other people that it really does help. I do believe it helps certain people but it’s not acceptable to abuse the system.

      1. If you really use marijuana for medical reasons and as prescribed, you are not getting high.

    2. We’re not talking about marijuana here. We’re talking about prescription heroine that people are sharing like it’s aspirin. And it’s cannabis, not canibus.

  19. Woe is me, those evil drug laws and blah blah yack yack. Sure.

    Everyone has a choice in life. They have a choice to bust their butt in school and then do it again to rack up the degrees in an attempt to make a better life for themselves. They also have a choice to go to concerts where drug use is prevalent, accept controlled substances from people they don’t know, and then throw away their constitutionally protected rights. Unfortunately, this guy did all of the above, and is paying the price for being foolish, followed by being stupid.

    Working hard to better your life? Pro tip: Don’t associate with people who use drugs.

    Like driving fast? Pro tip: Don’t give rides to people who smell like drugs, as Mr. Probable Cause is not your friend.

    Get pulled over while in possession of narcotics with someone who smells of narcotics riding shotgun? Don’t talk to the effing cops. Shut your mouth. Do not consent to a search. If they can search, they will, without bothering to ask.

    Ultimately this guy made a series of stupid choices that resulted in setting his life and career back by a good decade. I seriously doubt the concert in question and a few hits on the bong was really worth it, but ultimately that is the choice he made. Period. It has nothing to do with those eeeevil drug laws, the injustice of it all, or the phase of the moon. The kid was naive and stupid, and he’s now learning the hard way that their are consequences for being such.

  20. Never talk to cops. Never let them in your house, your car, or on your property without a warrant, not for any reason, especially if you’re not guilty. Politely refuse. If they insist, ask if you’re being arrested. If you are, say *nothing* else at all until you talk to a lawyer.

    Case in point: When a cop asks you if you were speeding, never say you were. Say “I don’t think so” or “Not that I was aware.” Nine times out of ten, they’re come up with some bullshit like “A car matching this description was reported stolen…”, check your id and insurance, and send you on your way.

    Those of you with smartphones: get Cop Recorder 2 or OpenWatch. The Supreme Court has ruled that police acting in a public function may be recorded.


    1. How about this: Don’t commit a felony in vain. Don’t take a pill that you don’t want and stick in your pocket. Don’t hand that pill of to someone else who might not even know what it is and may be allergic to it… Does any of this make sense?

      1. I was charged with a felony over similar circumstances… Having the wrong friends around me when I was young. She had a guy write her a fake script but put my name on it then the next day picked me up to go with her to pick it up. So when the police show up and of course it’s in my name guess whos going down even though I had no idea what was going on. I had never had even a speeding ticket but spent a week in jail…then another w an ankle bracelet while on probation attending these same type class that lasted over a year mandatory AA meetings three times a week and having to try and keep a full time job during all of this. Still 15 years later even w my degree (I also recieved 10 years probation by the way) its still on my record even though I was told over and over again it wouldn’t be once I was off. I completed my probation and paid the ridiculous amount in fines in six years and was off but still even with my job history and degree its difficult to find a job. I can admit my fault in all of this but the punishment didn’t at all fit the crime when we have violent offenders…sexual offenders getting less. To me that isn’t Justice.

        1. Not to mention when time is served…people should be free to live their lives and succeed but how the system is set up so many remain in the system BC after one offinse its hard to find decent work. That’s how they keep the cycle continuing… If you can’t pull your life together what would you resort to in order to provide for you family? I fortunately have still been able to get decent jobs but I have been turned down for many BC of this so imagine someone without work experience and a degree…what option does that leave a person?

  21. The ‘War on Drugs” started by Nixon is the same as the “War on Poverty” started by Johnson.

    Any “wars” against the American people by the Federal Government are really “wars” against liberty and freedom. They never work – just suck more money.

    They do nothing to help anyone other than the bureaucrats that instituted them in the first place and those that follow.

    More money to all the government programs, more institutions to deal with the “problems”, more bureaucracy, more police power, more government dictates, etc. – It’s a racket.

    Less free will. And as the article notes, more misguided punishment.

    It’s disgusting. Hell, I can’t even grow a certain plant in my yard without fear of the government seizing my property.

    1. Well maybe we should ALL pop oxycontin- which is basically heroin- and then see how well this country and its screwy politics succeeds!

      1. That isn’t his point…these programs do More to Keep people “popping Oxy” rather than letting them serve the time then move past it. More money is pushed into programs that do nothing but suck tax payers money.

  22. I think to some extent, all the injustice of this case is disguising a second problem. This is just bad public policy. This is a guy who was, as far as I can tell, an upstanding citizen and member of the community. Because of what happened, he basically became a marginal part of society. And only that much because he had an education and a decent skill set. Now, imagine what happens when you do this to someone who isn’t so advantaged. You’re creating a criminal class.

    1. …an upstanding member of the community who doesn’t understand the law and has Mommy to fall back on? NO. Decent skill set? Where do you see evidence of THAT in this story? My 14 year old son knows that when someone hands you a pill (at a concert), you shouldn’t put it in your pocket. His Mommy probably paid for his education, and the car he was driving…etc.

      1. Decent skill set being that he was a broker and earning his MBA….what 24 year old wouldn’t call there mom when arrested. Let’s pray you 14 yr old never makes a mistake (on kid does that) serves his time but then still can’t completely pull his life back together. Smh once time is served something as non violent as this should NOT hang over your head the rest of your life…who does that help? Not the tax payers…not the person or their families… It only benefits the States who get funding for putting as many as they can through these programs.

  23. Now consider the largest illegal drug importer in this country is the CIA.

    They simply can’t stand the competition.

  24. I don’t intend to say that I’m perfect, but if someone tries to give you a “pill” at a concert, the only correct thing to do is to refuse it. You certainly don’t take the pill and then intend on passing it to another person, either. That is dangerous and dumb.

  25. The title of this article should be, “How illegal possession of a controlled substance ruined my life” or “How my ignorance and stupidity ruined my life”. But when a 24 year old college graduate needs his mommy to plead for him, what else would we expect?
    So first, anyone of voting age should know that exchanging prescription medications is a felony. We know this. So he takes a pill he’s never tried before, and puts it in his pocket. Why? So he could get someone else involved in the felony behavior by handing it off to a third person. Okay.
    Then, by letting his friend be in/ on his own property (the vehicle), with a pipe (NOT a tobacco pipe I presume), he added to the perilous situation he’d put himself in. I have a hard time believing there was no pot-smoking going on that car. Whatever.
    Then this 24 year old man, (how old do you have to be to be considered a grown-up in American?), has Mommy do his bidding for him. I think THAT’s the real problem here. Back off, Mom and let Jr. grow up before it’s too late.
    (I only stumbled on this article because I’m trying to figure out what to do with my 57 year old neighbor who has an oxycontin addiction now. And guess what! His mommy is still cleaning up his messes and when she won’t, he gets real mad. I don’t think he matured past age 3.)

    1. Well not every charged is like your 50/something neighbor. Smh its ridiculous to assume that one case is equal to all cases. Young people make mistakes…it happens and they get charged over something seemingly small BC of their ignorance of the law…and carry that the rest of their lives even though they never touch the stuff or drink. I’m sure you’ve never done anything stupid or illegal in your life right? So these that do everything they are supposed to for a non violent crime should still be suffering for it after the fact? That way it hopefully keeps them down trodden and they will stay in the system which costs you even more tax dollars. Your a genious…

  26. Shut your ugly dirt creating mouth Mike Riggs. You write something contraversial to get people involved in your created and edited and edited again fairytales. You are a plague and show no remorse like the news reports. You are the sad and sick preying on the normal with your dirt word story(s). Is it real – NOOOOOOOOO THIS IS NOT REAL PEOPLE SO STOP PLAYING INTO THIS!!!!!!!!!!!! HAVE YOUR OWN INDEPENDENCE AND BYE

  27. I admit my ignorance brought me here. Over a month ago my friend gave me a oxycodone for my knee I have a tore meniscus and was taking 600 mg ibeprfen, breakthrough knee pain, and Advil but it just wasn’t helping. He gave me this pill I put in my coin pocket and just forgot over 3 weeks. I got arrested for being drunk in public and when I’m getting checked into jail they find that pill in my coin pocket. I spent a week in jail and just talked to my lawyer he said there offer is a few more days in jail, 18 months probation, 6 months suspended license , paying fees and lawyer, drug and alcohol classes for I think he said 3 months , so I thought I check and see what having one pill could do and now I know, if they want me to become a criminal I will ablige. I mean how am I suppose to get to work how am I suppose to get to these classes, I can’t want to become a crimal I’ve been a victim my whole life , when I’m in prison thinking back on this day and how my memory failed me and that one pill in my coin pocket fucked me just know I did this for us

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