Drug Policy

One Month in Jail for Soap Possession


Morse-Brown Publishing

Last week Annadel Cruz and Alexander Bernstein were released from Lehigh County Prison in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where they had been detained for a month after being arrested for possession of soap. A state trooper claimed a field test indicated that the homemade soap, which he found in the trunk of the car Cruz was driving, contained cocaine. Laboratory tests showed it was just soap, which is what Cruz had said all along.

The trooper said he stopped the car on Interstate 78 because Cruz was driving five miles per hour above the posted speed limit and "hugging the side of the lane," as the Allentown Morning Call put it. Bernstein's lawyer thinks it is more likely that the trooper's suspicions were aroused by the sight of a young Latina driving a new Mercedes-Benz with out-of-state plates. After pulling over the car, in which Bernstein was a passenger, the trooper claimed to smell marijuana, and Cruz confessed she had smoked pot before leaving New York City. Then the trooper asked if he could search the car, and Cruz supposedly said yes.

Assuming Cruz really did consent to the search, shouldn't that have immediately raised doubts about the accuracy of the trooper's field test? If you were carrying two packages of cocaine in your trunk, would you consent to a search of your car? In any event, this case is yet another refutation of the old canard that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear during a police encounter.

Field tests for drugs are notoriously unreliable, mistaking common products such as soap, deodorant, billiard chalk, tea, breath mints, soy milk, and chocolate for illicit substances. Yet police across the country continue to use these kits as a basis for locking people up. Bail for Cruz and Bernstein was set at $250,000 and $500,000, respectively. "After this," says Cruz's lawyer, "everyone should pause about jumping to conclusions when a field test is said to be positive by law enforcement. There are people going to jail on high bail amounts based upon these field tests."

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  1. Field tests for drugs are notoriously unreliable

    The cops find them very reliable.

    1. I wonder what their human fat content test would show?

      1. It does make the best soap.

        1. First rule of soapmaking: don’t talk about soapmaking.

          1. I wash my hands of the whole business.

        2. I have always considered this bullshit. Death-camp Jews had no fat left to render.

          1. In the oven operator’s manual (if it was authentic) there was a blurb about keeping 10% of the victims fat to help fuel the fire. But I do not remember any real history blurbs of making soap from the concentration camp victims.

            1. I think this meme originates in World War One propaganda, that seized on the german soldier’s habit of referring to the margarine in their rations (which was fairly crude and nasty stuff) as “Corpse Fat”.

      2. I fail to see what the cop’s body fat percentage has to do with this. Harumph!

  2. Field tests for drugs are notoriously unreliable, mistaking common products such as soap, deodorant, billiard chalk, tea, breath mints, soy milk, and chocolate for illicit substances. Yet police across the country continue to use these kits as a basis for locking people up.

    Rampant false positives are a feature of field tests, not a bug.

    1. I have to wonder if that is even true. Is it really to anyone’s benefit in the police organization to have something like this happen? This isn’t like drug dogs where they can invent probable cause to search and possibly find real drugs. This is the evidence they use to actually arrest someone and if it turns out to be bullshit, then it is pretty embarrassing and possibly expensive. The individual officer might get off on arresting some innocent people like this, but I’d think that the higher ups would not like it too much.

      1. You have to make the assumption that all people are guilty. Then it makes sense.

        If I, in my infinite knowledge, decide that you’re a drug dealer, then it’s just a matter of time before I find the drugs that you’re hiding. If finding them involves a not-so-reliable field test, or having a doctor jam tubes up your ass, then so be it. You’re just a drug dealer anyway.

      2. 3 words

        Civil Asset Forfeiture

        Now you see why false positives are so good for the department, the fact that they let Officer Dunphy bust a few extra heds, terrorize some sheeple, and maybe get a blond bombshell to “do anything” to avoid getting arrested are just a bonus

        1. Pretty much this. All you need to seize a person’s stuff is to charge them with a crime. Whether it sticks or not makes no difference, because their cash and whatever else that you stole is already long gone by the time they get out from under the legal process.

          1. Just make sure you pull over someone who doesn’t have the money to fight you. You arrest them and give them a choice, agree not to fight the seizure in return for dropping the charges and letting them go home that day. Want to refuse to sign the form waiving your right to fight the seizure? No worries, you can go back to jail and wait to see a judge and hope you can make bail.

            That is the racket. And at least in parts of Texas and Louisiana, the cops are honest about it. Recently there has been some talk in the Texas Legislature to rein that kind of shit in. And you know what the cops’ response has been? A lot of departments depend on the revenue from seizures for funding. No shit. They actually say that. They make no attempt to justify its legality beyond “we need that money.”.

          2. You don’t even need to charge the person with a crime, just charge the asset.

            In the case in question, a late model Benz is worth at least 20k, charge the vehicle with transporting Cocaine on the basis of the field test. Now the onus is on the the women to prove that they were not carrying Cocaine.

            Cops then sell the car at auction and the funds are free to be used in any way the chief see’s fit.

            1. But if you just charge the asset the person might fight it. You charge the person with a crime and get them to give up the asset in return for you dropping the charge.

              1. No loss you you either way.

                1. They fight, the taxpayer is paying for your side and the owner’s *don’t* get reimbursed for court costs no matter what. That means a lot of stuff (say you take a couple of grand in cash from a driver) is not cost effective to fight.

                2. They win – ‘look the system does work’ – and again, no monetary loss to your organization.

                Plus – just sell the shit quick before they can mount a defense and pocket the money.

          3. Actually, you *don’t* need to charge them with a crime.

            CAF is great that way – you simply say ‘I think this property was used in the commission of a crime’ and take it. You don’t need to *prove* that supposition and you don’t need to believe that the person controlling the property committed a crime.

            Then its up to the owner to prove the property was not used in/proceeds of a crime.

        2. When your assets are seized, even if you are not charged with a crime, the burden of proof shifts. You have to prove the assets were not used, ever, in a crime. Property does not have rights. The court case will have a name like “State of Texas versus one Tri-level house”. How is it possible to prove something has never been used in a crime? If gov’t wants it and you do not have the resources and passion to fight you lose. If you do, you MIGHT get them back.

  3. I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

    1. Are you implying the soap could be used to make explosives?

      1. One could make all kinds of explosives, using simple household items

        1. If one were so inclined.

  4. It cannot be repeated enough: there is reason to fear any police encounter, no matter how seemingly innocuous (such as a minor traffic stop), because of the absurd and arbitrary power the pigs have. You get the wrong pig on the wrong day and you can end up in jail for a month because of soap. Or whatever.

    Since any policeman/woman can do this to you at any time, you always have reason to fear. Always. I don’t care if there actually even are “good” cops. It doesn’t matter. Because today might be the day you get a bad one, and guess what? The “good” ones won’t help you with the bad one anyway.

    1. I have not had a ticket in 20 plus years, and I still get nervy when a cop passes by.

      1. The funny thing is, most cops confuse the terror they instill in everyday people as respect.

        1. A lot of everyday people are confused about that too.

        2. … or as an admission of guilt.

        3. That goes with the self-delusional aspect of being a cop. It takes a lot of delusion to mistake being essentially a gang member for being a hero. Also, we know just on their hiring practices alone that cops are almost required to be stupid.

        4. The funny thing is, most cops confuse the terror they instill in everyday people as respect.

          “This one looks nervous. We’d better search the entire car! Yes, get the upholstery cutting knives out.”

          1. “Is Dr. Buttplug on duty, we need a good lackey to perform an enema… or five”

          2. Search the car?

            Hell, we need to look up their asses! Lord knows what they might be concealing.

      2. I am the same way. Other than speeding or occasionally rolling a red light, I am the most law abiding person you will meet. But I still get nervous when I see a cop.

        1. I call it the Balko effect.

          1. In Russia, nuts punch YOU!

      3. 13 Years for me, and the same reaction. I don’t even like them to look in my direction, especially if they are smiling and ‘just being friendly regular folks.’

    2. Unfortunately, you’re right?it can’t be repeated enough, because too many people are still not getting the message. I still have people try to “challenge” me about “wouldn’t you call the cops if” or “wouldn’t you be thankful for the cops if” bullshit, as if they haven’t gotten that no, for realsies, I don’t trust them and I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone scarier. At least, anyone I might encounter on the daily.

      1. Absolutely. And it’s not even that all encounters with the police will necessarily turn out bad; it’s just that if you get one that does turn bad, it’s going to be bad on a scale that you haven’t really dealt with before. Like, you go to jail for a month for soap. Or you get the shit beaten out of you. Or they shoot and kill you. This isn’t “the DMV clerk hates me and is making me wait endlessly in line”. This is “they can shoot me and almost assuredly face no repercussions”.

        So why would any of us call the cops again?

        1. Well, like anything else, you call the cops when the consequences of not calling are likely to be worse than calling. If, say, a home invader breaks into your house and you shoot him dead, you will probably have bigger problems if you don’t call the police. Smart people will do all they can to set up their lives so that such a situation is very unlikely.

          1. Smart people will do all they can to set up their lives so that such a situation is very unlikely.

            Yep. And then they live in fear that despite these precautions, something as unlikely as a home invasion or something will happen, requiring them to bring the police in. You know why I’m most afraid to be the victim of a crime? Not because of the actual “victim of a crime” part…

            1. Exactly. You can take all the precautions you want, but you never know if your taillight is going to go out on the way home from work, or if the cop in a bad mood pulled you over for going 3 miles above the speed limit because they’re pissed off or they don’t like that you drive a more expensive car than them or they need to fill their quota.

              You can be super smart and you still can’t insulate yourself from the cops, not totally. So you can never relax when they’re around.

            2. You know why I’m most afraid to be the victim of a crime? Not because of the actual “victim of a crime” part…

              this may be a more disturbing statement than the one from the NSA person about the govt’s giving him a fair trial. Who, growing up, thought there would be a day when dealing with a criminal would rank ahead of dealing with a cop.

          2. That is why you take precautions to minimize the noise level any home invasion defense system is likely to make. If I have a reasonable belief that none of my neighbors heard me dispose of the guy, I’m not going to call the cops. I don’t owe society that much of my time and good will. This may sound absurd to you, especially if you live in a densely populated area, but the scenario I described happens frequently enough in rural areas I know one county sheriff still on active duty who after suspects for multiple breaks-ins went missing went around to homes to assure people that they would get a fair hearing if they reported on incidents that occurred in their homes. I doubt if many took him up on that.

            1. If someone broke into my house I would shoot them without a thought. But my biggest fear after doing that would not be “oh my God I shot someone”. It would be “holy shit the cops are coming, how am I going to make sure some trigger happy flatfoot doesn’t shoot me, my wife or my dog.

              1. I can’t find it now, but there was story recently of a dad who finds his son, in his home, dead from a suicide, calls 911 and is then beaten and arrested by the cops who arrive on the scene.

                NEVER CALL THE COPS.

                1. Jesus, those pigs deserve to be fed to wild boars.

              2. In the alternative scenario where I couldn’t be sure of anonymity, I would call my lawyer before talking to anyone else.

              3. BTW, this completely ties in to this. I searched around the house yesterday looking for what she got me for Christmas, and found it. A fucking crossbow! I looked up the model, about $350 on Amazon.

                1. Ever since I was three, finding Christmas presents intended for me has always been the most fun aspect of Christmas. I use the same techniques I developed at a yungin to remove the tape from the wrappings to reveal the prize inside, and then to put it back together so no one knows. It is my still my most cherished thrill.

                  1. Yes, but she *knows* that. You ain’t getting a crossbow. That package was just to lull you into a false sense of security and to try to get you to damn yourself.

                    Now, you think you’ve found everything because that’s what she wants you to think. Some of the packages were in easy to find places and some in a more discreet location, with maybe a few that were ‘hard to find’. You were *meant* to find them.

                    Now, on Christmas, when you open your presents and only find ugly sweaters and socks you’ll be looking around, anxiously, for the crossbow package and she’ll innocently inquire ‘ what are you looking for’. Just waiting for the slip that proves you’re a spy and then BAM! That whole Mr/Mrs Smith thing with the guns and stabbings and whatnot.

                2. You won’t be so cocky when she uses it on you.

                  WHY YOU COME HOME LATE?

                3. Got a fully stocked Matthews bow with all the accessories a man could want from mine last year, she ain’t much of a hunter but i gotta say, the girls got taste.

              4. You worry about trigger happy cops and then brag about how trigger happy YOU are. If you are not in life threatening danger, shooting someone walking out your house with your TV should get you 20 years, IMO. Even if this violence is legal in your state, your morality is psychopathic. I agree everyone should fear a contact with the police. Those believing they are innocent and have nothing to fear are naive.

              5. You fear trigger happy cops but you brag about YOUR OWN trigger happiness. Unless your life is in danger, shooting someone walking out your house with your TV should get you 20 years, IMO. Even if this violence is legal in your state, the morality is psychopathic.

          3. I hate to say it,
            but still dealing with the authorities would be costly.

            We’re all pretty smart people here, libertarians tend to be smart; where is the incentive to deal with dead robber’s body through the authorities? They may try you for homicide, and you may win, but it still costs shitloads of money. And again, we’re all pretty smart here, I’m pretty sure we could manage to get rid of some 170-230 lbs of flesh and bone, assuming one has a trunk. Then, wouldn’t be hard to patch some drywall or replace a window. OK, actually I might hire a house framer to do the window for me, but you could easily just break the whole window and say it was a baseball.

            So they’ve actually made it less costly to do it yourself than actually go by the law. Makes you think

        2. And it’s not even that all encounters with the police will necessarily turn out bad; it’s just that if you get one that does turn bad, it’s going to be bad on a scale that you haven’t really dealt with before.

          Even the “minor” encounters have very little upside to them. If you get pulled over for a traffic violation, you’re sitting there, just hoping for a verbal reprimand, because otherwise they’re gonna set you back 3 figures. Even the small things are a pain.

          Don’t get me wrong, all the experiences that I’ve had with cops were professional, even though it was not under the best circumstances. Granted, I was a white guy in affluent/outer suburbs, so I wasn’t exactly setting off any alarms in the cops’ heads.

          However, it is like dealing with a mobster. Sure, most of the time you’re too much of a small fry to deal with. However, all it takes is one time that you catch him in the wrong mood, or do him wrong in just the right way, and you find yourself in quick-setting footwear on an unplanned scuba adventure in the local river.

      2. My reply to these people has been, “I’m happy to send you a cop abuse story every fucking day. Let’s start with the puppy shooting videos and then I’ll move onto the ones where they shoot people for holding a cell phone.”

        1. So you do not have to go outside Chicago for your stories then?

          1. Sadly, you could throw a dart at a US map and hit a story with a badge-wearing goon fucking everything up.

    3. People spend months in jail because they can’t make bail. This happens to hundreds if not thousands of people every year. They are in the wrong place at the wrong time and get arrested for a crime they didn’t commit. They can’t make bail and spend weeks or months in jail while the idiot DAs sort the matter out. Meanwhile, they can’t work, often lose their job and pretty much everything they own while they rot in jail for a crime they didn’t commit. If they are lucky, the DA figures out they are innocent and they are set free to a life of unemployment and homelessness. If they are not, they rot for a few more months and go to trial and are likely convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.

      This is called justice.

    4. At the most basic level, during a traffic stop you are being approached by an individual you do not know, who you know is armed, has experience using violence against other people, and who has what comes very close to a blank check for using violence without negative consequences.

      On top of that, you know all the negative consequences of defending yourself should you feel your safety is in question.

      Traffic stops are probably the most dangerous interactions the average person will ever have.

      1. Traffic stops are probably the most dangerous interactions the average person will ever have.

        I fully believe this, and I’m pretty frightened by how many people don’t realize it.

      2. There is a lot of truth to that. The cop can arrest you and impound your car and force you to spend at least a day or in some cases much longer in jail for any reason he likes. It is more or less inconceivable that a cop will ever be held accountable for false arrest. All he has to say is “I smelled pot” or “he resisted” and the arrest will be considered valid even if the charge is not. In addition, the cop can beat the living shit out of you with no worries of repercussions. If he really harms you or kills you, he might face repercussions. But a cop could bust you in the head, break your nose, slam you to the ground or any other form of assault and have no worries about even being questioned about it as long as he doesn’t put you in the hospital or kill you and probably won’t have to do anything but lie a bit even if he does that.

        Being around someone with that amount of arbitrary power ought to scare you. Cops are accountable to no one.

        1. Cops arrest for asking for a pen to sign ticket

          Nah, we’re the crazy nutbags for not trusting cops.

      3. The fact that cops now routinely approach cars pulled over for traffic stops with their hands on their gun ready to draw tells you all you need to know about such an encounter.

        You are expendable at the slightest whiff of a threat to the cop. Completely expendable.

        1. In fairness, pulling a strange car over is probably the most dangerous thing the cop does all day. The rational solution to that is avoid pulling people over without a good reason. But doing that would require cops refraining from harassing people and city governments not collecting traffic fines. And we can’t have that. Better to send a paranoid cop with his hand on his weapon up to some old lady in a Buick.

          1. Yeah, last time I was stopped. LIght was on. Both hands on the wheel. Like Uncle Ruckus, I need to wrap my wallet in reflective tape, so no one gets the wrong idea.

          2. Exactly. It’s dangerous for them, too. But all the rules are in their favor. And they take the job knowing that they are going to be walking into dangerous situations like that.

            Running a stop sign doesn’t make the average person a hardened criminal out for blood.

            1. Of course it doesn’t. But crazed criminals do run stop lights.

          3. This reminds me of the time a cop came to my to give me a ticket for talking on a cell phone, and as he approached my car, he asked me to riase the back windows so my dog would bring her head in. Now this is hilarious, because my dog LOOKS like a big white teddy bear, and her mannerisms make it immediately apparent that she basically is one; she wouldn’t even hurt a fly, and she’s like the prettiest dog in NJ.
            So I’m like “oh sir, it’s fine, she won’t hurt anybody”, and he’s like, all serious “That’s fine, but I need you to raise your window so your dog is inside the car”
            This is so funny if you’ve ever met my dog

        2. This is why I am seriously considering a dash cam.

          I haven’t been pulled over in over 20 years and I’d like to keep it that way. But, if I do get pulled over, I want some evidence that backs up my version, since the baboons outnumber the humans on the force, now.

          1. I would worry the cop would notice the dash cam and go berserk over it.

            1. Check the video I posted above. You need your own evidence to bust the lies the cops will tell.

      4. don’t forget the steroids.

        1. Steroid rage is a myth. Don’t look like a fool by promulgating it. The pigs don’t need steroids to be assholes. Assholes become cops, cops don’t become assholes because of steroids.

          1. If steroid rage were true, international cyclists, who all use and have used really since the sport began, would be killing each other and their girlfriends at record rates. If roid rage were true, Lance Armstrong would be the most dangerous man alive.

            1. roid rage isn’t false,
              it just only hapens when you take insane amounts of steroids like the super bodybuilders

          2. “rage” OK. That’s probably overblown. And there is probably more correlation than causation.

            But if you are saying hormones can’t affect behavior, then I disagree.

    5. There are no good cops. Just bad cops and ones that look the other way and make no effort to purge the ranks of the bad ones.

  5. 5 mph over the speed limit? In PA? I’m not sure you can even be cited for that.

    1. Although, in my experience, if that’s all they were doing, they’d be the safest drivers ever with NY plates on 78. Some real insane out-of-state drivers on that road.

      1. Yep – pulled over because everyone else was blowing past her?

        1. Every speed is suspicious.

        2. If someone with NY plates isn’t drifting into your lane while going 80, they’re suspicious.

  6. A former police officer of my acquaintance tells me that “field tests” are basically wild guesses on the part of the police.

    But never mind that. Without government, who would protect us from soap? Soap is a known gateway to shampoo and toothpaste.
    Where will it end?

    1. BATH SALTZ!!!!

      And I think we all know where that leads…

      1. And I think we all know where that leads…

        Nom nom nom…

          1. Except that was the MJ, not the bath salts.

        1. that made me chuckle #nomnomnom

    2. You can’t make this up.

      Manufacturers of antibacterial hand soap and body wash will be required to prove their products are more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of infection, under a proposed rule announced Monday by the Food and Drug Administration.

      Those manufacturers also will be required to prove their products are safe for long-term use, the agency said.

      “Millions of Americans use antibacterial hand soap and body wash products,” the agency said in a statement. “Although consumers generally view these products as effective tools to help prevent the spread of germs, there is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water.

      “Further, some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products — for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps) — could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects.”

      1. “Further, some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products –

        Nothing says scientific certainty like “some data suggests”.

      2. I do find it a bit annoying that it is nearly impossible to find a liquid hand soap that is not antibacterial, but that’s not a good reason for something like this. I think that the antibiotic resistance thing is a legitimate concern, but the right response to that is to do more research and educate people about the silliness of their germ-phobia.

        1. The fancy liquid soap that Target sells is one of the few non-AB soaps that I can consistently find on the market.

          Anti-bacterial soap is aimed directly at the soccer mom set. No risk to their snowflakes is too small for these women to bear.

          1. Yes, and then they wonder why their snowflakes have “compromised immune systems”. Maybe, just maybe, it is because you bathe them in anti-bacterials and haven’t given their immune system the opportunity to develop any immunities.

      3. Manufacturers of antibacterial hand soap and body wash will be required … by the Food and Drug Administration.

        Wait, wut? Is soap a food or a drug?

  7. Bismark is supposed to have said, “It is better that ten innocent men suffer than one guilty man escape”, but I never really thought of that as being in the tradition of American jurisprudence.

    That’s apparently where we are, though.

    1. The frightening part is that so many people have a boner over the punishment part of crime and punishment that a significant portion of everyday Americans might agree with that.

      1. If even ONE LIFE is saved, LP…even ONE….

        I’ve always despised that “logic”…

      2. Americans love their cop shows. Everyone of them needs to watch “Low Winter Sun” to see just how fucked up the police are.

        1. Is Low Winter Sun worth watching? I always thought of it as “that show where the opening credits start after Breaking Bad”

          1. It is really good. I usually do not enjoy cop shows, but this one got me. Lennie James is terrific. Loved his characters in Snatch and Walking Dead, but in this show, he such a scumbag.

  8. What’s with the obsession over soap today? The banner story over at CNN right now is PROVE IT!?FDA challenges antibacterial soap effectiveness. In fact, I expected this post to be related at first.

    The world wide leader, indeed.

    1. “There’s always going to be pressure,” Mujica told Brazilian daily A Folha de S?o Paulo before the law passed. “There’s an apparatus in the world that lives by repressing, and it costs a lot of money.”

      Now comrade register so that you may buy your government approved, grown, and regulated weed but no more than as allowed by law. Yes comrade breath deep and enjoy freedom!

  9. The biggest mistake made here is that they admitted to pot smoking. When pulled over by a LEO and on a “fishing expedition” and he claims to smell something, the correct answer is “I don’t know what you smell, I don’t smell anything.”. Interestingly, I got this advice some years back from an assistant prosecutor who was then working for the state’s attorney in a county in Illinois. She was dating a friend who happened to be a pot smoker.

    It is just possible that if the people here had done that, everything else they experienced might have been avoided. Standard libertarian disclaimers against the WOD apply otherwise.

    1. Yes. Talk as little as possible and answer as few questions as possible. The cop is not your friend and you will never be able to talk your way out of anything. The less you say, the better off you are.

      1. If you are a cute chick, you might talk your way out of it.

        Or you might find yourself like my GF being sexually propositioned by a cop, and then getting charged with a crime when you demur and spending a lot of time in court waiting for the cop to continue not showing up enough for the judge to finally dismiss it.

        This happened to her multiple times. Fuck you, HPD.

  10. Repeat after me. “I am sorry officer. I do NOT consent to searches of any kind.”

  11. Wait… wait… $250,000 and $500,000 bail for… what exactly? If they KNOW it’s just soap, what’s the bail for?

  12. Why do we have lawyers anymore if judges and cops can make up law on the spot?

  13. Haven’t you heard of the epidemic of Tide snorting among teenagers?

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