The author of BUSTED! Drug War Survival Skills from the Bust to Begging for Mercy Chris Fabricant sits down with CC correspondent Paul DeRienzo and talks about his new book.
Chris Fabricant, a New York-based criminal defense attorney, says he wrote Busted! to answer the numerous calls for help he gets from victims of the drug war. With so many people being swept up into what he calls the drug war industrial complex, Fabricant thought it was “time for some preventative drug bust education.”
The book discourages the use of illegal drugs, but Fabricant says since people aren’t going to stop using drugs just because they’re illegal, Busted, like a condom, offers protection from some of the potentially negative consequences.
I spoke with Chris Fabricant in Tompkins Square Park in New York City. The Park was famous as a hippy hangout and 24-hour pot party before former mayor Rudy Giuliani’s crackdown on “quality of life crimes” like pot smoking.
The Tompkins Square Park scene has changed since. We watched a police car prowl the park, and the officers hassle a few denizens. The police action made for an illustration of the need for Busted.
Cannabis Culture: What are the three levels of doom?
Chris Fabricant: It’s what I call the three levels of police encounters. That cop over there could drive up to us for no particular reason, and not because we’re acting suspiciously or anything, and ask us questions. I call that the first level of doom. A lot of people think the police have no right to do that, but they do as part of their job to investigate suspicious looking people.
CC: What are we doing that’s suspicious?
CF: Whatever the cop thinks is suspicious. To some cops all black people are suspicious; to some cops it’s people with long hair.
CC: Isn’t that profiling?
CF: No, actually racial profiling in essence is not illegal. The US Supreme Court has decided that if an officer has probable cause to believe you have committed any crime, jaywalking, failure to wear a seat belt, anything like that, he can stop you. His reason or motivation for stopping you is irrelevant. That decision legalized racial profiling. The only way to fight it is to prove systemic racial profiling, but for an individual it’s very, very difficult to prove.
CC: What is probable cause?
CF: Probable cause means that the police officer either witnessed you commit, or somebody told him that you committed a crime.
CC: What’s the second level of doom?
CF: The second level of doom is reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is where you haven’t committed a crime, but there’s good reason to believe that you’re about to. Reasonable suspicion in the drug sense can be you’re staggering about for no particular reason, or you and I are exchanging money here in Tompkins Square Park but the cop can’t see any drugs, or an incriminating conversation that doesn’t provide probable cause, but it gives the officer a good reason to come up to you and detain you.
CC: What about a Grateful Dead t-shirt, or Rastafarian hairstyle, or a legalize-pot t-shirt?
CF: Absolutely the cop is going to be suspicious. Legally none of those things amount to reasonable suspicion, but that will be added on the wrong side of what I call the bullshit meter.
CC: What’s the dreaded third level of doom?
CF: The third level of doom is where the cop has probable cause. It means you can be arrested and ultimately strip-searched. Probable cause means that he believes that you stored something in your pants or in your bag or anywhere, means that it can all be searched.
CC: Let’s talk about locations. In the book you talk about a number of them: the street, your home, parties, and cars. Is any place safe?
CF: I advise all my readers to get wasted at home and stay at home while they’re wasted. Anything else is more risky. The worst place to have drugs, or to be carrying drugs or to be inebriated in is in your car. Basically you have no legal privacy rights whatsoever in your car. You can always be stopped and you can almost always be searched.
CC: What about a parked car?
CF: There’s a story in the book about two guys getting drunk in their car. One yells to his friend, “don’t tell him a fucking thing,” that’s suspicious to the cop who pulls the guy out of the car and frisks him. The cop said he felt a three-by-five card in the guy’s wallet, and based on his years of experience, he believed that card was a blotter of acid. He was entitled to pull that card out of the man’s pocket and of course it wasn’t acid. But it was a picture of the guy holding two huge bags of pot in his hands and a suitcase stuffed with more pot. They used that to get a search warrant for his house and arrest on distribution charges. So don’t get wasted in your car.
CC: Or carry your grow-op harvest photos in your wallet. Do the authorities ever feel compassion?
CF: The criminal justice system brings nothing but pain and suffering. That’s what the criminal justice system is for. Don’t be looking for compassion from your judge, or even from your attorney. Nobody is interested in compassion. People are interested in you pleading guilty quickly and moving on. End of story.
CC: How did you get Robert Crumb for the book’s illustrations?
CF: My editor, Josh Behar, knows him from doing the Comic Book Encyclopedia; we’re both big fans. So is my father, who was just as psyched as I was to have such a legend associated with the book.
CC: I read that your father and mother met when your mother got busted for possession. Is that true?
CF: Mom got nabbed picking up a little package at the post office. Dad was with Legal Aid at the time and he was assigned as her defense attorney. Dad got mom a deal, married her, burned his suits and ran away to Woodstock with mom. It lasted about 30 minutes.
CC: You use a lot of celebrity busts in your book. You include 8 “Limbaugh Lessons” based on the talk show blowhard’s recent drug troubles. Why Rush Limbaugh above all others?
CF: Like a lot of people, I took some pleasure in his pain. I didn’t think he would go to jail. It occurred to me to use his case to show readers why Rush will probably not go to jail, and what we can all learn from him.
CC: Like having your maid score for you?
CF: Limbaugh Lesson #3: Distance yourself from your dope supply. Always better to have someone else do the wet work!
Buy the book here at Amazon.com!