Know your rights


Sept. 18, 2004 æ|æ OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Former child star Macaulay Culkin was arrested on drug charges Friday during a traffic stop, authorities said. The 24-year-old actor, best known for his role in the “Home Alone” movies, was taken into custody on complaints of possession of a controlled dangerous substance without a valid prescription and possession of marijuana, according to the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s office.

Culkin, who lives in New York City, was booked into the Oklahoma County Jail and released after posting $4,000 bond, a jailer said.

Authorities confiscated about 17 grams of marijuana from a vehicle in which Culkin was a passenger. Officers also found 16 milligrams of prescription medications used to control anxiety and seizures, according to a police report.

Culkin was in a vehicle driven by a 22-year-old New York City man who was stopped for driving 70 mph in a 60-mph speed zone and for making an improper lane change. After receiving a verbal warning, the driver allowed police to search the vehicle.

First: 16 milligrams of prescription medication? Is that a lot? Can you even see that amount? (There’s 500 milligrams of pain reliever in my Tylenol) And about 1/2 ounce of pot.
Second: Folks. Do not authorize authorities to search your car, your person, your purse, your house. You have the right to refuse such searches. (You musn’t resist searches if they occur anyway, but you need not say “Yes”)

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Once you say “Yes” to a search then you have surrendered your rights. Law enforcement knows how to ask persuasively (sometimes going to illegal lengths), but all you need do is politely refuse permission, saying that it is against your political beliefs to authorize such searches (even if you aren’t carrying anything, you should never agree to a search).
For extra help, download and print the ACLU Bustcard (pdf) and carry it in your wallet.
Update: Reader Trent points out that 16 milligrams of a prescription medicine can be a whopping dose, depending on what drug it is. I admit I was a bit flip in my comment about the amount seized (without knowing what the drug was, we really don’t have a sense of the significance of the amount). In retrospect, I think I was thrown by the fact that they apparently only listed the amount of the active ingredient — I’m used to hearing about drug charges being listed by the amount/weight of the entire product, including the stems/seeds/blotter paper/starch or whatever.
Further Update: Reader Mark points out that Just Cause Law Collective has some good “street-level” common sense information on knowing your rights.

What’s the difference between detention and
arrest? If arrested, what’s the one and only form you
should be willing to sign without a lawyer? If
interrogated, what are the magic words? [“I’m going to remain silent. I
would like to see a lawyer.”]
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