Another example of under reported stories of the costs of the drug war, from Reason.
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.
As you can imagine, this hasn’t worked out so well for James. Feel safer? Are your children safer after James’ punishment?
You can vote for someone who will really change this in November. (Hint: it isn’t Obama or Romney).
Will you? Or do you think this is OK?