Published on May 21st, 2013 | by Thompson0
Dealing With Dirty Pigs Part I
It was December 2007, which meant I was headed home to Glendive, Montana for “vacation.” It was really more of a business trip for me, though. I never willingly visit Glendive. There’s always an ulterior motive. This time, like many times before, it was to sell weed. I only had a few friends in Glendive that smoked pot, but they always knew people who were looking for a good bag and were willing to pay dearly for it. A high school friend of mine told me people were paying $80 an eighth, and we were getting just $50 in Bozeman. I figured if I sold it to my buddies at $65 a bag they could make $15 a bag, and I’d still double my profits. Everything sounds so good in theory, and the theory worked so well for a while.
I was just west of Forsyth, Montana, just a few hours from home, when my radar detector/air freshener started screaming. I had just pulled over to smoke a bowl in the ’98 Explorer my mother’s second husband bought from his old man, and it didn’t smell particularly well, but I was only doing 5 miles per hour over the speed limit. I slowed to 75, but the trooper was already pulling a U-turn and turning on his lights. I tried to stay calm, cracked the window, and slowed to a stop on the shoulder. The trooper walked towards me, each step sending nervous chills down my spine. As he approached, I opened the window completely, and before he could ask me for my license and proof of insurance, his face cringed as if he had just swallowed a gulp of the bitterest India Pale Ale on the planet.
“Wow, it smells like pot in there,” the trooper said.
“Does it?” I replied, shocked.
“Your car smells like raw marijuana. You don’t smell that?” he asked, trying to hold back a shit-eating grin.
I seriously couldn’t smell it. I had acclimated to the car’s environment. The first disadvantage of driving an SUV is there’s no trunk. I immediately learned that lesson the moment the trooper mentioned the smell, but I knew smell didn’t qualify as reasonable suspicion to warrant a search, so I felt confident I could talk my way out of this.
“License and proof of insurance, please,” the trooper said to break the awkward silence. I pulled my license out of my wallet, which was setting in an empty cup holder. As I reached for the glove box to get my insurance card, the trooper asked, “Do you smoke?”
“No,” I said, almost in shock as I handed him my insurance card. I was taken aback. As if I would tell him I smoked weed, but that was my mind on drugs assuming the trooper meant weed and not cigarettes. They ask those questions to catch you in a lie, and I was caught.
“I only ask because I see you have a lighter there in one of your cup holders.” Fuck me. Katie, who didn’t fuck me, left her lighter in my car after our ski trip. In fact, she left a lot of shit in my car, so I tried to explain.
“This is my girlfriend’s lighter,” I said as I showed the trooper the girlishly painted lighter cover it was in. “You see, she took my vehicle up to Big Sky to ski with some friends and forgot a few things – a lot of things actually.”
“You know that’s reasonable suspicion,” the trooper said, and then came one of the only worthwhile quotes in the entire conversation.
“As I said, the lighter doesn’t belong to me, but that’s not to say having a lighter in your vehicle makes you a smoker. I’ve learned having a lighter on you can save your life in this part of the country.” I felt like I had battled back to even, but I was still way behind. The trooper’s suspicions were raised to a peak, and it would take just one misstep to end up in cuffs.
“What else did your girlfriend leave in your car?” the trooper asked.
I turned to point out the things she had left and one thing she hadn’t. “Those clothes in the back are hers, that bag, there’s some makeup back there, and a few other –”
“What in the car belongs to you?”
The trooper’s interruption caught me off guard, as did the question, but frankly I was happy he hadn’t already asked to search my vehicle. I turned around and pointed out the bags that belonged to me – all but one. “That one there is mine and the tall, black one is my laundry.”
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
“No. I wasn’t speeding, was I?”
“I clocked you at 81, and I noticed your license plate wasn’t on the front of your car.”
“I know I wasn’t going 81, officer, and my license plate is right here on the dash because I only have one of the bolts to fasten it to my bumper.”
“It’s against the law to display your license plate on your dash, and you were speeding. You have to be careful with those radar detectors.”
“Radar detectors aren’t illegal in the state of Montana.”
“No, but they are in other states.”
“I’m only driving in this one.”
“Well, it shouldn’t be a reason to speed,” the trooper replied while looking over my insurance card.
“As I said, I don’t believe I was speeding. Can I see your radar gun?”
“I’m not obligated to show you that.”
“Really? Then how am I supposed to know you have evidence against me?”
“This insurance card is expired.”
“Well, I know I’m insured.”
“Will you step out of the car, please?”
“Is there a problem, officer?”
“I just want to see if that odor is coming from you or the car.”
“Fair enough.” I didn’t have any weed on me, so I still felt pretty confident in my chances to walk away from this. I took off my seatbelt and exited the vehicle.
“What do you have in your pockets,” the trooper asked. Of course, my first instinct was to reach into my pockets because I wasn’t completely sure. “No, I didn’t ask you to reach into your pockets. I asked what you have in your pockets.”
“Well, I don’t remember everything I put in my pockets. I’ve got some cash and change, my cell phone, some gas receipts…”
“You’re not carrying any weapons? A pocket knife?”
“No,” I said almost laughing, but I did have another lighter I wasn’t going to tell him about.
“Come on back to my car. I’ll check your insurance and write you a warning for speeding.”
“OK.” It all sounded good to me as long as the trooper was nowhere near my vehicle, but I sensed he knew I felt that way. I followed the trooper to his car and made myself as comfortable as I could in the passenger’s seat. The trooper played with his car computer and verified my insurance. Then he started writing me warnings for speeding and lack of proof of insurance. During all this, I gave him the sob story that I was on my way home for a funeral. (I didn’t feel Christmas vacation was a good enough excuse for travelling Interstate 90 for some reason. I mean, the trooper could have been Jewish and taken it the wrong way.) Whose funeral I can’t recall, but judging from lies I’ve used in the past (and will use in the future) it was probably a grandmother. Sorry, Grandma.
The trooper returned my insurance card and told me to attach my license plate to the bumper of my vehicle. He followed me to my car, still filling out the warnings. I opened the passenger’s side door, quickly grabbed my license plate off the dash, and shut the door as to not allow the trooper a good look at my center console. You see, my ’98 Explorer has a center console that can be removed and used as a carrying case for, I don’t know, drugs when you’re on a picnic or a hike. It’s a sport utility vehicle, I guess, and this center console had mad utility. It sports a zipper and when it’s unzipped there’s a tiny gap that allows you to see no more than an eighth of an inch inside the console. I never, ever zipped it.
I bolted the license plate to my bumper with the lone bolt and walked back to the trooper on the passenger’s side of the car. He served me my warnings, and I felt like I was off the hook, but this is where it all went to hell.
I turned and opened the passenger door to put the warnings in my glove box. Why I opened the passenger door, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s a perfect indication of marijuana’s effect. I clearly wasn’t thinking clearly, and I had broken my first rule of drug trafficking: Don’t break the law while breaking the law. When you’ve got a bunch of drugs in the car you wear your seatbelt, you don’t use any drugs, you don’t speed, and you certainly don’t drive with your license plate on the dash. My indiscretions would cost me. The trooper had caught a look at my center console.
“There’s something in your center console that’s reflecting some light,” the trooper said as he pointed.
“I don’t know what that is.”
“You don’t know what’s in your center console?” A shit-eating grin began to creep onto the trooper’s face again. “Let’s take a look.” The trooper invited himself into my vehicle without asking to search it, which I thought would protect me when he discovered the paraphernalia and gram of pot in the center console. That shit-eating grin began to creep onto my face despite the fact I’d be spending a few hours in jail. I had the trooper’s ass for violating my Fourth Amendment rights, and being born and raised an upstanding smartass I felt I had to ride this one out. The shit-eating grin would linger on my face until well after the trooper cuffed me and read me my rights. I’d say the moment my ass hit the back seat of that cop car, that shit-eating grin slithered away.
“I want to speak to a lawyer,” was my only reply. At least I didn’t spill the beans, I thought. My bail would be low, and I’d be home for dinner. Another trooper arrived to “assist” the arresting officer. He was older and fatter.
“What do we have here?” he asked, peering through the window at me.
“Possession of dangerous drugs and paraphernalia,” the arresting officer replied. Dangerous drugs. Ha. I could only chuckle at the crime.
“Is he cooperating?”
“Not saying a word.”
“Well, let me give it a try.”
The older, fatter trooper sat in the passenger’s seat and grilled me. “Son, if you cooperate with us we can make your life a whole lot easier. Is there anything you want to tell us?”
“I want to speak to a lawyer.”
“Okay, we’ll get the tow truck down here and have your vehicle towed to the jail. You can make your call at the station while we book you, and your vehicle will be impounded until we search it.”
“Excuse me?” I asked, shocked.
“Well, you didn’t think we would let you drive it home, did you? We have reason to believe you have more marijuana in there.”
I was fucked. Both troopers exited the vehicle and discussed the matter in private. The arresting officer opened the door and let me out. I was transferred to the older, fatter trooper’s car, and made the long, quiet drive to Rosebud County Corrections while the arresting officer awaited the tow truck.
My naivety had landed me in jail for the first time, and just a few days before the New Year. I wasn’t aware cops could break the law to catch me breaking the law, and I assumed it would just ruin my day and not my life. I had heard of cases being thrown out because of illegal search and seizure, but going through the process of a trial just seemed overwhelming. I just wanted to call a lawyer and tell him the trooper searched my vehicle without permission, get the trial started, and drive the Explorer home. But I didn’t have a lawyer, or the money to pay one, and I wasn’t about to tell my father I was a pot kingpin of Bozeman, Montana. The cops didn’t need to know that either; and they certainly didn’t need to know about the one and a half pounds of pot still in the Explorer.