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5 Ways to Avoid Getting Busted for Pot

How not to become a statistic in our nation's enormous, expensive war on marijuana.

Each year,  close to a million Americans are arrested for possessing marijuana, and many millions more are targeted and searched by police on suspicion of being a marijuana user. It's an incredible waste of limited law enforcement resources, and the experience of being harassed, arrested, and slapped with a criminal record isn't exactly getting rave reviews from anyone either. Heck,  even cops are getting sick of this idiocy.

I've spent several years teaching the public how to deal with police. I've heard more than my share of horror stories from people who froze up when confronted by the cops and soon found themselves in the back of a squad car. When that happens, chances are it wasn't because they hurt someone, but rather, because they possessed a small amount of marijuana.

Now that half the nation is in favor of legalizing marijuana, there is hope that we'll soon see a day when none of us are placed in handcuffs for having a little pot in our pockets. But until then, those who use marijuana –- whether to treat an illness, or simply as part of a healthy lifestyle –- should have a plan prepared just in case they find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The following tips are designed to help responsible adults avoid becoming statistics in our nation's enormous, expensive and embarrassing war on marijuana. 

1. Don't Consent to Searches

This is a pretty straightforward concept, but a lot of people get hung up on worrying how the officer will react. Don't. Just be cool and keep in mind that agreeing to a search will automatically lead to your arrest if you're in possession of marijuana. Refusing will often prevent the search, but even it doesn't, you'll have a better chance of winning the case once you get to court.  

2. Don't Let Them Into Your House

If you enjoy marijuana, then you probably don't want police officers coming inside your house. Unfortunately, cops are quite good at convincing you to let them in. They might make it sound like you don't have a choice, or simply try to convince you they're not looking to get anyone in trouble. Whatever they say, your answer should stay the same: No. Unless they have a search warrant, they can't come in without your permission. Your best move is to politely explain that you're not letting anyone in without a warrant.

3. Ask if You're Free to Go

The longer your police encounter lasts, the greater the risk of something going wrong. If you refuse a search, officers will often say, "okay, wait here," or they might even threaten to "call in the dogs." What they won't tell you is that they may not actually have any legal authority to make you stay. Police need evidence ( reasonable suspicion) to justify detaining you, and refusing a search doesn't count.

If you don't feel like hanging out with the cops, ask if you're free to go. If they say "yes," leave immediately. If they say "no," then you're being detained and they will need to prove in court that they had a legal reason to detain you. Even if they search you and find marijuana, the fact that you asked to leave before the search will improve your chances in court, because any evidence found during an illegal detention is not admissible. The legal concepts here get a bit complicated, but just remember that after you refuse a search you should also ask  if you can leave.

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