Pubdate: Tue, 08 Oct 2013
Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
Copyright: 2013 The News and Observer Publishing Company
Author: Barry Saunders


That danged dog had better not drool on my Nabs.

Even as I stood on the side of Interstate 85 in Spartanburg, S.C., on 
Thursday night, surrounded by three cops and a dog, that was my first 
thought. I had been pulled over   nabbed, so to speak - while driving 
through the Palmetto State on my way to Atlanta in a rental car.

I knew I wasn't speeding, so I wondered what creative reason the cop 
- - oops, make that cops; two more drove up before he reached me - 
would give for stopping me.

Where are you going?

I didn't have long to wait. The one who stopped me claimed I'd 
swerved. He asked me to step out of the car.

Him: Where are you going?

Me: Atlanta.

Him: Why?

Me: I like Atlanta.

Him: What do you do for a living?

Me: I work.

Him: Do you mind if we search your car?

Me: Not without a search warrant, you can't.

Him: Can I search you?

Me: Not without a search warrant, you can't.

The deputy then asked if his dog could sniff around the outside of my car.

"Sure." On the second go-round, the initially calm dog started 
wagging his tail and barking and then - Whoosh!   leaped like a 
jackrabbit through the open car window.

Oh Lord. That's when I began worrying about the dog drooling on the 
crackers spread out on the front seat for easy access, as well as 
silently praying that whoever had rented the car prior to me had not 
left any narcotics in the ashtray or anywhere else.

A thorough search

The deputy explained that since the dog had gotten a "hit," that gave 
them probable cause to search the car. Which they did. Thoroughly. 
While they were at it, they searched me, too, in ways that usually 
require the exchange of money or at least dinner.

Man, they searched compartments on the car that I didn't even know 
existed. They pulled my clothes and toothbrush from the bag and went 
through them, too.

When the lady at the rental car agency had tried earlier that day to 
give me a red car, I rejected it precisely because I knew it would 
attract cops' attention on the highway.

So did, it turned out, a brown car.

Turns out, also, that I got caught up in a law enforcement 
thunderstorm or, as Spartanburg County Chief Deputy William Parris 
told me when I called his office Monday, "That was Operation Rolling 
Thunder, a drug interdiction operation," conducted by several law 
enforcement departments.

Don't motorists have the right to refuse being searched? I asked 
Parris. "Well," he said, "if I ask you if you want to be searched, 
then you can say 'no.' Now, if a canine indicates on your car or I 
see something in plain view, then I can search you without your 
consent. Then it can be considered that there's reasonable belief 
that there's something in the car."

As a veteran of a hundred such stop-and-searches - give or take one 
or two - I know the routine, which is why I'm disappointed in what I 
did while they searched the Ford Edge (a decidedly undrug-dealerly 
car): I shoved my hands into my pockets. The deputy took exception to 
that move, even though he'd already searched me, and told me to take them out.

I apologized to him and chastised myself, because I know in some 
situations that could've been a fatal mistake.

After receiving a citation for failure to maintain my lane and being 
freed to go, I know I should've counted my blessings - I was still 
alive and not headed to the pokey. I should have hightailed it out of 
South Carolina as quickly as legally possible.

I could not, however, resist asking the deputy, who seemed like a 
pleasant enough sort, "Look. I know you're just doing your job, but 
what was it about me that made you decide to search my car? Do I even 
look like what you think a drug dealer looks like?"

"Some of your answers," he responded, "sent up a red flag."

Oh yeah: what?

"When I asked you 'What do you do for a living?' you said 'I work.' 
That's suspicious and evasive," he replied.

Does anyone ever actually say, I wondered to myself, "I sling crack"?

The reasons I was evasive are: A. It was none of his darned business 
what I do, and B. Not everyone loves newspaper columnists the way you 
all do here in the Triangle. So I figured I'd keep it to myself.

You know that UNC study last week that showed black or Hispanic 
motorists are 77 times more likely to be searched after a traffic 
stop than white motorists? I hope they didn't spend a whole bunch of 
money on that: Any dude I know who's ever climbed behind the wheel 
could've told them that without analyzing 13.2 million traffic stops 
over 10 years.

Pssst. I can't prove this, but I know exactly why I was searched: 
That danged dog just wanted my peanut butter Nabs. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom