A man’s home is his castle, or sanctuary. When the Pilgrims first landed in Massachusetts in 1620 to escape the surveillance of the state in England, they brought with them this common law feature of English life. The Magna Carta (Fundamental Charter), issued in 1215, forced the king to recognize this liberty, limited the king’s ability to tax, and re-asserted the principle of “due process”. Civilization is defined by the degree of privacy afforded to us as individuals: the more privacy we have, away from the conforming taboos placed upon individuals by religion, government, and society, the more we can take action on our beliefs without fear of reprisal. These rights to privacy – to have sex with whomever we choose; to have conversations about politics and government; to practice our religion or philosophy; to self-medicate with herbs and drugs of our choosing; to read or view books, magazines, videotapes – are freedoms that took hundreds of years, and many martyrs, to establish so that we may enjoy and cherish them today.
Privacy and Your Home
This expectation of privacy is entrenched in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The Founding Fathers knew that all governments and rulers use spies, informers, agent provocateurs, and armies to breach citizens’ privacies and so were very clear about forbidding any aspect of federal government intrusion into domestic life. The first ten amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights and are the fundamental laws of the United States. The expectation of privacy in one’s home is a fundamental law, unless a compelling reason can be put through a “due process of law”. Outside of our homes our expectation of privacy is greatly lessened, but law enforcement still takes liberties with our rights, which I discussed in my first video and in my column last issue (CC #67). The expectation of privacy in one’s home is greater than the expectation of privacy in one’s automobile, storage locker, luggage, and even on your person.
The War on Drugs – or the War on American citizens, as drugs cannot be victims – has made millions of Americans’ lives miserable every year since Richard Nixon ramped it up in 1971. But the attack on people by the government is accompanied by a woeful gutting of our fundamental legal rights as courts assign more power to government and their agencies of forceful compliance. Prohibition fosters a massive expansion of police power, government power, and bureaucratic power. Your taxes are paying the salaries of a huge Drug War empire: police, jailers, urine-testers, informers, politicians, clerks, judges, and sheriffs, all of whom are working constantly to punish you for your peaceful, honest lifestyle choice.
Why Cops Ruin Lives For Pot
I was a Texas lawman with over 20 certificates of training, including a June, 1992 certification from Robert C. Bonner, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, for my training in the DEA’s “Cannabis Detection & Eradication” program.
I became very good at arresting Americans: over 800 narcotics busts by myself, and over one thousand more alongside other drug agents. I seized several tons of marijuana during these operations, and I trained hundreds of officers in how to search for marijuana with drug dogs. Yet I became a police officer only because it was incredibly easy to be one. I finished the 400-hour course and graduated from Kilgore College, East Texas Police Academy, on August 19, 1990. I soon rose to the peak of the adrenaline and excitement pyramid by becoming a top-producing narcotics officer, which is considered to be the ultimate job in law enforcement. And despite what you may hear, being a narcotics officer is one of the safest policing jobs in America, far less dangerous than encounters involving alcohol, car chases, domestic disputes, and crimes of opportunity and gain (such as burglary or armed robbery).
I grew up in a culture where marijuana was considered evil, “wrong”. In high school I drank alcohol but – I’m ashamed to admit it now – our group of friends would beat up the pot smokers. When I later smoked pot in college, I realized it was not harmful. And I so loved the smell of the plant that I kept one growing close to my desk as an officer. Despite knowing marijuana wasn’t evil, I still chose to become a drug cop, enjoying my access to the incredible power over other people’s lives. I was on television with all my big busts, showing off the contraband like hunting trophies and enjoying the notoriety and admiration of my peers. The government reinforced my high school teaching, and combined with the high of being a top narcotics officer, I soon readopted my old beliefs about marijuana being evil.
In this article, I will explain the emotional state I was in while describing the legal and illegal techniques that harmed hundreds of American families during the one hundred-plus home raids I conducted over my tenure. I will also offer some tips on how not to get raided so you can hopefully enjoy the rest of your life without experiencing the terror associated with such police misconduct. It is very difficult for me to write about my past search warrant sins because of my friendly, light-hearted and compassionate nature. I enjoyed the thrill of drug arrests at the time, but the damage I did to families haunted me more as the years went by. I struggled to find out if there might be something wrong with my value system, and it gnawed at me increasingly. As a young kid, my mother reminded me about a reckoning for one’s actions and the value of listening to one’s conscience, and I have carried her teachings to this day. Almost daily I feel a well of regret for the pain I caused by kidnapping children while taking their mom and dad to prison. Compassion is not at the center of police training, however. I was hardened and calloused by the constant teaching and reinforcement that “Drugs are evil, but drug users and dealers are worse”!
Home Invasions Are Easy To Do
As a rookie, I could not believe how easy it was to obtain a search warrant to invade somebody’s home.
You either find an informant to make a purchase of a narcotic from another person’s home, or have a proven and reliable informant see drugs in the home. Fill in a few blanks on a lengthy, pre-written search warrant form and describe the location of the narcotic purchase. Obtain a judge’s signature, and then raid the home. As you can see, it was very easy for a 25-year-old thrill seeker, like I was, who was professionally motivated by anger and propaganda, with an addiction to adrenaline, to invade your family home and execute a warrant that condemns your peaceful lifestyle choice. The following is an in-depth look at the four-point search warrant process.
Step 1:?Developing Informants
Using highway interdiction skills and a trained K-9 to bust motorists, I turned them into informants by threatening to ruin their entire lives.
Most of the time, I was bluffing and over-exaggerated the trouble they were in. I explained I would take them to prison, seize all their property, send their children to a state home, and call their place of employment to get them fired. These terrified people were then easy to influence, to convince to make a purchase from their dealer or friend. I remember encouraging an informant to spy on her husband – who was also my informant, and spying on her! I convinced them that I had wired hidden cameras in their house; she would give me details about her husband’s particular house habits that day, and I would call him and repeat to him what she told me.
One of the most horrible things we would do as narcotics agents was to lie on the search warrant affidavit and claim we had a proven and reliable confidential informant who saw drugs in the targeted house. If the informant was proven and reliable, meaning she had given me information in the past that led to an arrest, she did not have to make a purchase but merely see drugs in the house and report the same to me. When we knew somebody was dealing drugs but could not find an informant to either make a purchase or see the drugs, we relied on our “ghost informant”. You see, unlike the Federal Courts, we knew the State Courts would never make us reveal our source, which protected us from being caught in the lie. If we were unsuccessful in finding narcotics during the raid, we simply said they were out of drugs that day.
I never saw another officer plant drugs, and I never planted drugs on a person. I know this happens but I have no personal experience with that exact malfeasance. However, I did often threaten to plant drugs to get informants to co-operate and to place fear in drug dealers. Sure, cops were taught to never play dirty, but we did it anyway! You would be surprised at the effectiveness of a cop who pretended to be a crooked officer who would plant cocaine if you didn’t obey his orders. Another cop technique is an informant plant — having your own guy put drugs on someone or leaving them at his place. I never did this but witnessed other cops raiding homes after the informant made a delivery of pot or cocaine to the house. This is the same as planting drugs, because the officer knew the drugs came from his own snitch.
Step 2:?Drafting the Search Warrant
All I needed was an address, the suspect’s name, and a good description of the house.
The entire pre-written search warrant was three or four pages of legal jargon that few officers understood. Having a form-style search warrant causes officers to manipulate the circumstances to fit the “fill-in-the-blank” warrant instead of writing out a warrant based on the known facts. According to the language, you are considered a drug dealer if you sell or give a friend a quarter ounce of pot even if you aren’t a dealer and only sold or gave it to him as a one-time thing. So sharing your stash classifies you as a dealer, even if you’re not even selling for profit. [Editor’s note: I was sentenced to 62 days in jail for passing a joint to a fan at a rally in Saskatchewan – “trafficking marijuana” in the eyes of the law!] I would guess thirty percent of the arrests I made during raids were people in this very situation – a friend helping a friend. If search warrants were not “fill-in-the-blank” these people would never have been in trouble, because one purchase does not fairly indicate you are, in fact, a dealer.
One (the only?) fair aspect of a Federal or DEA investigation is it takes multiple purchases from the same person or location before a warrant can be crafted. Typically, when the Feds get you, you have committed many deliveries to an undercover or informant. State officers, however, are held to a lower standard and one purchase is all that is needed to kick in the door. The Feds will take time to establish an airtight case, sometimes years before the arrest, while local lawmen would do an entire investigation and raid within a 24-hour period. This is the reason a lot of state “drug task force” agents have more arrests and have raided more homes than most DEA agents.
Step 3:?Getting a Judge’s Signature
After filling in a few blanks on the doctored search warrant, a judge must authorize it.
Our favorite judge to approach would be the local city judge or the Justice of the Peace. While these two positions are useful in the administration of policing and courts, their background training and experience is limited. A city judge is hired by the city council, and it is unnecessary to have experience to apply. A Justice of the Peace is elected and also needs no experience to run for office. Upon receiving the job, whether hired or elected, the judge is sent to a short training school to learn how to be a judge.
We police officers usually targeted these authorities for search warrant signatures because their lack of knowledge and experience made it easy for us to slide in and out with very little scrutiny. Not one of these judges refused to sign any of my warrants in eight years. In my opinion, these types of judges should not be allowed to sign a search warrant at all! District and federal judges are actually attorneys and usually scrutinize warrants more closely. But I never had one of those judges refuse to sign a warrant either!
I remember their behavior while they carelessly scanned and signed the warrants. Most would read and sign with no compassion, like it was simply part of the program, but a few judges would reluctantly sign. I did not care what the judge felt at the time as a cop – I just wanted the
warrant signed. Years after leaving law en-forcement, I discovered one of the reluctant judges was a pot smoker. Can you imagine the personal torment he must have felt year after year? I realize now that his hesitation and clear reluctance to sign pot bust warrants were the clues of his mental process weighing justice against his own potential self-incrimination. I also know, however, that had he not signed any of our warrants he would have been suspected as being involved in drug activity. The War on Drugs is not only causing police to lose their integrity but judges as well.
Step 4:?Raiding the Home
With a signed search warrant in hand I could conduct my legal home invasion.
The single most important safety factor when serving a search warrant is the planning. Officers meet prior to kicking in the door and are given the strategy of entering and securing the home. Our debriefing consisted of the case agent drawing a diagram of the residence on an eraser board and giving a few details, such as how many were expected to be in the home, if dogs were present, if children were present, and the level of danger. The case agent would then decide the order of entry into the home, and we would load into a pick-up truck, van, ambulance, or any other unmarked (non-police) vehicle. Arriving at the warrant location, up to fifteen agents would jump out and storm the residence. Upon entry we would scream and slam the residents to the floor as we went from one end of the house to the other, top to bottom. All adults were instantly handcuffed and children escorted into a waiting police car.
Home raids are the most dangerous drug enforcement technique used by narcotics agents. They are hard to plan and always feel sloppily done. Most astonishingly, during thousands of hours of police training I never received one hour of instruction on conducting raids, and I have never been involved in a search warrant raid that was properly planned – the debriefings were never organized well enough for the raid to go smoothly. I remember one case agent drew a square to represent the targeted house, wrote the address in the square, and said, “Here’s the plan: we’re going to this house, and we’re going to kick ass!” Everyone thought it was so cool and funny. We were all excited about being placed in a totally unfamiliar location, not knowing what we would face. The adrenaline high we got from these hurried plots and armed missions was extremely powerful and very addictive.
I’m revealing these horrible police tactics and attitudes that local and state narcotics officers operate under in order for you to understand their mindset. Home invasions are dangerous and conducted by armed, adrenaline-pumped young men. It was tremendously thrilling and wild… unless a person thought about it too much. Looking back now, I can’t believe our government gave me, an untrained 25-year-old, the authority to push a .45 caliber pistol to the head of a fellow citizen during the mass confusion of a search warrant raid. There are so many young police officers the very same now as I was then! The raids are so confusing and happen so fast I’m surprised I never accidentally shot – or saw another officer shoot – anyone during these operations. The first five or six search warrants I ran were such a blur because of the unfamiliarity and confusion. I remember being embarrassed at our poor planning and thinking how dangerous and foolish the raids looked and felt. But I soon became desensitized to these twinges of conscience, which granted legitimacy to our relentless invasions. Why? For the same reason cops do it to this day: for the rush of authority, violence, and mastery over the fate of these arrested citizens.
There is a safer alternative for serving a search warrant. Police can stake out a residence and wait for the occupants to leave; initiate a traffic stop; arrest the occupants; get a house key; and unlock the door to begin the search. The arrested homeowners can debrief the agents, advising if any persons remain in the house, and the location of any dogs or guns. I know of one Sheriff’s department that served search warrants in this manner, and it worked with a great deal less trauma and danger. But most departments overlook this technique because it’s not as exciting; it doesn’t involve all the “cop toys” and lacks the adrenaline rush that many young cops crave. Dressing in raid gear, grabbing machineguns, and crashing in a door to yell and push people around is extremely thrilling. But for American citizens who have gone through this terror, it represents the abandonment of a fundamental principle of American rights and life: to be free of state surveillance and scrutiny in your own home, and to live without the threat of unreasonable search and seizure.
My Regrettable Raid and Arrest History
Unfortunately, I have raided more homes than most law enforcement officers. Most police go their entire career without being invited to run a raid.
Of course, my working in the narcotics field gave me more opportunities compared to street cops, but I also raided more homes in my years than most DEA agents ever will in their entire career. I had somewhat of an unfair advantage over them as well because I was a drug task force officer with the power to raid within 24 hours, whereas the DEA has to perform detailed investigations. As bad, manipulative, and mean as the DEA is, it’s the task forces that have the most brutal powers.
When the Permian Basin Drug Task Force hired me in 1993, I was the youngest agent ever brought on board. I was jacked with enthusiasm at my quick climb into the exciting word of drug enforcement. Rounding up US citizens with drug laws was easy for me, and I was immediately bringing in large hauls with many arrests. Being a young, gung-ho narcotics cop with great leadership qualities helped me quickly win the favor of my peers, who then began inviting me to all the raids. It wasn’t long until I found myself being selected to kick in the door, so I was the first to see the terror on the faces of the civilians upon my entry. Some of their faces are burned in my mind forever – especially the kids.
During my recent string of 150 plus radio and TV interviews, I was often asked about the affects of my information on young people. My answer includes a statistic from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one you want to remember when confronted with the old refrain, “What about the children?” I respond, “I’m glad you asked about kids, because I have four children of my own. All are excellent students, and I know the reason my kids have been able to excel is because both parents are in the home and actively involved in raising them. Unfortunately, at any one time, there are 1.5 million children in America without one or both parents, because the adults are serving prison sentences for marijuana and other illegal drugs! Don’t you think that separation causes more harm to the kids than having a parent who smokes pot or sells drugs?”
Think about the children from that perspective! Isn’t stealing parents from their kids – which the War on Drugs is doing at an astonishing rate – causing more immediate and long-term harm to the children and families than if the adults had been left alone to simply do the drugs, and continue to raise their families? There are 44,500 citizens in state jails and 11,500 in federal prisons for exclusively marijuana-related offenses. Marijuana users are American citizens, most of who contribute to society: they hold jobs, pay taxes, and maintain personal and community relationships. Families made up of children and marijuana-using adults are only destroyed by law enforcement – otherwise, life would go on as usual. Truly, the enforcement of marijuana laws does more harm to society than the use of marijuana does, and for me, the images of the scared, confused, terrorized children burned in my memory testifies to the truth of that statement. I understand why I am – and deserve to be – deeply hated by those kids and their parents, because that’s certainly what I would feel toward any individual who ripped our family apart.
Now that I have shown you the search warrant process and examined the police psychology motivating these raids, you will agree that your house is not quite your castle, and that the Fourth Amendment means nothing to police officers. So let’s examine a few different ways to stay safe in your home.
Never Open The Door To Police
Everyone knows that a police officer needs a warrant to enter through a locked front door.
But one common mistake is that the resident, thinking they know how to keep police out, goes outside and locks the door behind them to speak to police on the front porch. But officers are trained to manipulate people into saying and doing things. If you are on the doorstep, face-to-face with the police, you are subject to this manipulation. I recommend never opening the door for police. A citizen is under no obligation to invite police into their homes, just as a citizen can decide what civilians are allowed to enter. If the police hold a warrant and have a right to be in your home, they can kick in the door. Knowing this, you can keep them out of your house.
Let’s walk through an example. You’re at home and there’s a knock at the door. Someone says, “It’s the police! Open up!” First of all, don’t panic. Lock your door and respond by yelling, “How can I help you, officers?” If the police ask you to open the door or come out to talk to them, refuse. If they say they have a warrant to search or arrest, tell them to slide it under the door. Look carefully for any mistakes made on the forms, such as the address or names, because that can mess up their bust. If they do indeed have a legitimate warrant, yell, “I’m showing my hands, you can come in!” and make them break down the door. If they aren’t willing to bust through, they don’t have the authority to be in your home. If the officers do not have a warrant but “want to have a few words” or “ask a few questions”, ask them to provide the dispatcher’s phone number so the dispatcher can communicate the information, or give them your phone number so they can call from their cell phones. Communicate through the door by yelling and never open the door. They will claim “I smell marijuana” or “What is that in there, a marijuana pipe?” – anything to get in, short of breaking down the door. That’s why keeping the door locked and insisting cops break in to get you is so helpful. A decision to kick in a door of a citizen is one that involves multiple layers of police authority, unlike the more obvious method of cajoling their way into your home. Kicking in a door comes with a whole new set of accountability that the officer is usually willing to avoid.
Keep Drug Dogs Guessing
To confuse drug dogs at your home, keep your stash very well hidden. Never, ever leave your weed, rolling papers, pipes, bongs, or other marijuana paraphernalia sitting out on your coffee table or bedroom dresser.
It’s also very important to never throw out seeds, stems, and roaches. Police can get a warrant to enter your home if they find any marijuana evidence in your garbage. Flush any incriminating evidence, or put it through a kitchen sink garborator. Regu-larly clean up your smoking area, and air out the house regularly. Find a stash location that is high up and well hidden, like in a box on top of a very tall bookcase, entertainment center, or bedroom closet. Dogs’ noses can’t reach “scent cones” high above their heads (covered in Never Get Busted: Understanding Drug Dogs in the previous issue, CC #67) so have a harder time detecting stashes in high-up places.
The rule with vehicles is that you should never get any marijuana odors anywhere, ever. But it can be the opposite for the home. It may sound crazy, but, if drug dogs are going to search your home, you want the faint odor of marijuana spread throughout your property! Odors are simply molecules that can move with the air or hover in enclosed spaces, and they can leak through every container over time – even solids. As such, drug dogs can detect the faintest scent of marijuana even if it’s sealed in a baggie inside a jar, in a box, or in the back of a drawer. This means you should move your stash regularly, leaving old marijuana scent molecules everywhere, so a dog would find smells all over the house. If a cop brings a drug dog to your property and the yard, house exterior, sheds, and living quarters all alert the dog’s amazing scent abilities, the K-9 will scratch everywhere but will be unable to locate the real marijuana. This frustrates the handler and causes him to place the pooch back in the patrol car, and forces a human search by the officers, which should turn up nothing if you have cleverly tucked away your stash in a hard-to-find location. Contaminating your home with misleading marijuana scents can be done by rubbing a baggie of marijuana on the walls and carpet of your house, and moving an open stash from one room to another. I remember trying to enter a raided home with my K-9 only to be frustrated by the dozen alerts he gave in the yard on the way in. The occupants had been smoking pot for ages in the yard, and tossing leafy trim, stems, and maybe even roaches on the lawn, making every square inch smell like marijuana. So, instead of flushing seeds and stems, you can scatter the debris outside among other leaves and twigs – but be sure to scan your yard from time to time with this method to make sure the seeds aren’t popping out as cannabis plants!
Deal Away From Home
Let’s say you’re selling marijuana to a few friends from your home. You obviously want to avoid selling to an informant or undercover officer, so never sell to a person who recently got busted.
Chances are they flipped and are working with the police in an attempt to trap you in order to avoid their own punishment. Out of 500 plus attempts to cause a person to become my informant, I can remember less than 10 who absolutely refused to cooperate. The War on Drugs has certainly created a nation of snitches.
But the single most effective way to keep cops out of your castle is to sell away from your house. Hide your main stash on the side of a desolate road or in the deep woods, and pinch off only what your buyer ordered so you carry only what is to be purchased. If you don’t want to be physically connected with the deal, arrange transactions near a landmark, and tell the buyer where to pick it up. Walk or drive to the location so no one knows where you live. A drug transaction must take place at your residence in order to trigger a home raid. Keep contraband out of your possession, and always deal with the purchaser away from your home. Never sell to anyone who won’t partake with you. That’s a strong warning sign that you may be dealing with the police or an informer.
Always watch your back.
As I write these reflections, I often feel sick and shake my head in disgust at the behavior of police officers. Back then, the harm and abuse being done wasn’t so obvious as it is to me now. I know that saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t quite cut it when I’ve ruined entire families – and it definitely doesn’t undo what’s been done – but I am indeed deeply sorry to my American brothers and sisters. I will always feel a heavy, heartbreaking regret for what I did and what police continue to do to this day. It’s what drives me to help protect my fellow citizens from horrible police state injustices. Stay smart in your own home, and keep yourself out of prison.