Whenever there is extended silence on here (like from February through the end of March), itâ€™s usually because of personal turmoil. I canâ€™t write publicly when there are really negative things happening in my life. I have to have some closure or distance first. The legal dust has not settled, but I’m no longer willing to be silent and wait like a good girl.
This is a very long post. For those with little patience or bad eyesight, hereâ€™s the executive summary: I was pulled over in East Texas and all my money seized for no real reason at all.
I visited Dallas in early February. I made sure to include a Saturday in my trip so that I could drive out to East Texas to visit my family. Might not be a lot of family, but I havenâ€™t seen them in a while. It was a good visit and I was wishing I didnâ€™t have a 2hr drive back to my hotel in Plano because I was sleepy. Was looking forward to a good nightâ€™s sleep before my plane trip out early the next morning. As usual, my mother requested I call her when I got back to my hotel room so she would know I was safe and sound. My sister requested the same.
illegal search and seizure in texas
Driving back along I-30, I was pulled over by a cop who was riding my tail so close I couldnâ€™t even see his headlights. He showed me no radar gun but told me I was doing 68 in a 65. Okay, fine, whatever. He asked to search my rental car and I refused. Invoking that one right was obviously a sign I was hiding something. I spent the next two hours either sitting in the ditch or standing up against the hood of a police car (trying to stay warm) while 10 assorted men swarmed over my rental car and took it apart. They asked me a lot of questions. I forgot the other part of my rights and didnâ€™t ask if I was free to go. By that time, it was too late. Iâ€™d forgotten that I-30 is a major drug corridor. I wonâ€™t forget it again.
There was a state trooper who yelled in my face for a while (I mentally drifted off, so I only recall he was angry because I refused to discuss the details of my family with him). There was a young cop driving a white Escalade who stood over my shoulder the whole time clicking his handcuffs and making remarks to me. An older guy who was playing â€œgood copâ€ up to the point where he let slip that people have â€œtoo many rights.â€ The original young cop who pulled me over and seemed intent on making a drug bust. And some random old guy in a maroon A&M shirt and some official badge around his neck who seemed to have come straight from a fundraiser barbeque. Plus all the other assorted authority types who drove in from 50 miles around to find drugs on some random chickâ€™s car. (Shouldâ€™ve seen the guy playing with the spare tire. I was waiting for it to roll into the highway or the ditch.)
There was a â€œdrug dogâ€ — a black mutt who responded to signals from his handler and got chewy bones every time he did what the handler wanted. He scratched at my driverâ€™s side door when the handler bent down (out of my sight). That gave them access to my car since they counted that as a â€œhit.â€
I told them I did writing and Web design (which is true, it just doesnâ€™t pay as well as Iâ€™d like). It didnâ€™t take them long to find my money once they were in the car. For the record, the Amazing Drug Mutt â€œhitâ€ on the driverâ€™s side door. My money was in a purse in a plastic grocery bag (with other assorted crap I was carrying around) on the floor of the passenger side.
Since my hotel room did not have a room safe, I was carrying my money on me. Thatâ€™s always been the safest way of handling things. Not this time. I hadnâ€™t been able to go to the bank to pay rent and a couple other bills, so every dollar I had was in there. It was all my monthly bills and a nice cushion to do extra, frivolous things, like get new eyeglasses and go to the doctor again (concerning what seems to be adult-onset asthma). My money excited them more than it excited me.
Since I could not prove how Iâ€™d gotten my money and I wasnâ€™t carrying receipts or a tax return to show my income, my purse with my money was put on the ground and the dog circled it, unconcerned. Impatient, the handler pointed directly at my purse. The dog picked it up in his mouth and gave it to the handler. That was another â€œhitâ€ from the Amazing Drug Mutt. They took my purse and money, giving me a receipt. Oh, and a warning for the speeding.
There are a lot of details here that Iâ€™m glossing over. Like how I nearly had to sneak out of the hotel since I had no money to pay the bill (they forced it through on my debit card, resulting in an overdraft charge, along with two other debits for a rare ding on my account and $75 in fees, plus the amount of the charges). Or how they went through the contact lists of the two phones I had in my car (work and personal). Or how I wasnâ€™t allowed access to my notebook to take down all their names and badge numbers (though they thumbed through my notebook). There’s more, but I’ll leave those details out as they’re quite personally identifiable.
I do consider myself very lucky that these crooked cops werenâ€™t so crooked as to actually plant drugs on me. The thought crossed my mind halfway through the proceedings and it chilled me completely.
Driving away I started crying. Unlike anyone who works for a set salary, I actually earn every dollar that was in my purse. Iâ€™m not a wage slave, but my physical labor is billed by the hour. There is no paycheck, only what I earn for my time and energy. I felt raped. Any sense of safety was ripped from me. (Not to dismiss the feelings of those who have been raped. I canâ€™t even imagine having to deal with that physical reality on top of the emotional damage.)
Donâ€™t ever think I believe Iâ€™m safe simply because cops roam the land at will. No, my safety was gone because my little bubble world had been trampled, I was on their radar and I was robbed of almost every cent I had (they left $.70 in the ashtray). There was nothing I could do. I was afraid they would ransack my hotel room looking for more cash or that they would say something to the cops in Vegas. There was nothing I could do. I spent a lot of time shaking. Unlike many people probably would, I didnâ€™t shower afterwards. I couldnâ€™t remove my clothes. I didnâ€™t want to. I kept my coat and shoes on.
Back in Vegasâ€¦I was afraid to go out. Shaking and nauseous when I saw a cop car. And they were everywhere! An infestation of them. I got pulled over a week later for some stupid mistake the California DMV had made with my registration. I was out running errands. Before the cop walked up to my car, Iâ€™d hidden my two phones in my bag and stuffed my money in my bra. I nearly threw up on him when he got to my window. I drove home afterwards and shook for a while.
Iâ€™m still afraid of my own money. A friend gave me a personal loan so I could pay my bills and eat. Having the cash in my hands was frightening. Iâ€™ve loved money and have always been upfront about that. But now, itâ€™s a dangerous thing to have. It feels like a beacon, making me a target. And it could be taken from me. I used to keep my money in my bedroom. Now itâ€™s far away from there. Sometimes hidden, sometimes just carelessly piled. It does not give the same sense of joy it once did.
Watching the cop count out my money on the hood of his car almost killed me. Every dollar more was another piece of damning evidence against me. Iâ€™d been so happy at my fat purse and now it was the worst thing I couldâ€™ve done to myself.
I tried to find lawyers but it was hard. They were either completely uninterested â€“ my grand sum being so small as to be beneath their concern. Or they wanted 1/3 of it to recover it for me. Which was a bit much. Why should I have to spend so much to get back what should never have been taken in the first place?
I finally found one who made a call on my behalf and the news back wasnâ€™t good. Another one told me I simply had to wait 30 days and see if they filed a claim against the money. If not, I should simply get it back. That 30 days has come and gone. No claim, no money, no purse.
One lawyer has made continual calls on my behalf. He’s talked to the DA, the sheriff, even the cop who pulled me over. All have assured him that the check (and purse) is in the mail. I continue to receive nothing. And now his calls aren’t being returned.
you need to knowâ€¦
This has taught me an important, horrible lesson.
Know your rights. I’ve taped an index card to my carâ€™s visor and the door jamb of my front door. It says:
1. Without a search warrant, say â€œNOâ€ to any requests for searches of anything.
2. When they start conversing and not writing a ticket, ask â€œAm I under arrest?â€ If not, then â€œAm I free to go?â€ Keep repeating until arrested or released.
3. If arrested, â€œI am going to remain silent. I would like to see a lawyer.â€ Repeat if necessary, say nothing else.
4. number of lawyer on retainer
Second, buy a copy of Beat the Heat. Read it more than once. Iâ€™d read it over a year ago and didnâ€™t remember the important info in the heat of the moment (#2, above). Not anymore.
As a bonus, watch these two videos put out by SWOP-Chicago. Though geared toward arrested sex workers, the concepts of your rights apply to all.
Third, donate to the ACLU. Though my case wasnâ€™t of interest to them, they do fight for the rights weâ€™re supposed to have. Trust me, when it comes to cops â€“ weâ€™re all criminals. Nothing like the police to swell the support for the ACLU.
Fifth, I donâ€™t care what you think about drugs. Iâ€™m not a drug dealer, trafficker or drug user (I generally donâ€™t even like going to the doctor or taking OTC medications; my trips to Amsterdam are rare). Illegal search and seizures have nothing to do about drugs. Just like arresting adult sex workers has nothing to do with saving children forced into sex work. (Or, even arresting children.)
I canâ€™t even imagine the trauma of being arrested. Or the trauma of being arrested as a sex worker. Iâ€™ve read accounts and listened to others who have been through it. I feel lucky I was simply viewed as some sort of drug-related criminal instead of a sex worker. It wouldâ€™ve easy to take me onto a deserted back road out in the country if those crooked cops had more than drugs busts and legal robbery on their minds.
I wonder if this is going to go on my record somewhere, stating that I had a drug-related search and seizure.
For those who say this is rampant due to loss of money and funding cutbacks in the past couple years â€“ yes, I know thatâ€™s part of it. Being broke isnâ€™t a legal defense for robbers and burglars; itâ€™s not a defense for cops doing exactly the same thing.
At one point in time, maybe people joined the police force because they felt they were protecting citizens from bad people and bad things. Now, it seems that police are the bad people and the rest of us have no protection from them. Stories like mine are way too common now.
Iâ€™ve always been proud of being a Texan, even through the Bush years. Texas is the motherland for me. Many amazing people have come from Texas, including a lot of strong, history-making women (and a lot of notorious crazy people too). But this incident and what a little bit of research has uncovered is revolting. Texas needs to get its act together. This is not what being a Texan is about.
Though this has little to do with my decision to start sex-working the world (I got that idea last July), the timing is fine with me. I’ll go spend my discretionary income in some other country, thank you very much.
My mother has reported having cops tailgating her while sheâ€™s driving to work. A 60-something teacher. Yeah, smells like a drug-runner to me. Iâ€™m giving her a copy of my index card.