‘Victories’ in the Drug War: Criminal Charges for Ibuprofen, Twelve Years in Prison for Cough Syrup

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Houston resident Eddie Darnell Bassett has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for possession of cough syrup found in his vehicle during a traffic stop. Lexington, Texas resident James Anderson, whose car was searched during a traffic stop in tiny Manor for an expired registration tag, was more fortunate: A gratuitous charge of “possession of a dangerous substance” — in his case, a bottle of ibuprofen — was dismissed by a judge.

Bassett, who was stopped for speeding, made the mistake of telling a Texas State Trooper that he had been smoking marijuana earlier in the day, thereby providing “probable cause” for a search. Although no evidence of marijuana use was found in the vehicle, the officer spotted a plastic Coke bottle containing a red, viscous residue, which he “believed to be codeine cough syrup,” reports the Palestine Herald.

Although Bassett initially described the substance as dishwashing liquid, a forensic analysis revealed that it was indeed cough syrup. Bassett was convicted of illegally possessing cough syrup without a prescription — and received an enhanced sentence because of a prior felony involving “essentially the same thing,” explained the assistant district attorney.

Anderson, who was stopped by a police officer in tiny Manor, Texas, was told to exit the car in order to fill out paperwork – a familiar gambit by revenue-obsessed enforcement officers seeking an opportunity to search a vehicle.

“As I stepped out of the vehicle I said, `I do not consent to a search,’ because I know my constitutional rights, and he had no reason to search me,” Anderson explained to ABC affiliate KVUE. “I had nothing to hide; I was just exercising my rights.”

Manor PD spokesliar Sgt. Ryan Phipps insists that “at a certain point within an investigation, you do not have the right to refuse a search” – and that this “point” was reached when a drug-sniffing dog supposedly “alerted” to something in Anderson’s vehicle. Given that narcotics dogs are trained and prompted to “alert” at anything, and that their handlers are trained to fabricate “probable cause” during every traffic stop, the standard Phipps describes effectively nullifies the Fourth Amendment.

Anderson, who suffered knee and back injuries while serving in the Army, had two bottles of ibuprofen, one of which had “the prescription label scraped off” — which was described as a violation of Texas law. The search also turned up a concealed weapon for which Anderson had a valid permit.

“That is where this drug became a dangerous drug without a prescription,” Phipps maintained. “Then the weapon was found, and that all ties together. You can operate a vehicle with a weapon in the car, but the second you are in violation of a crime or another criminal offense other than traffic, then that makes the possession or transporting of that weapon illegal.”

Anderson was handcuffed and stuffed into the unventilated and practically airless back seat of a squad car, where he passed out from heat prostration. While he was detained and unconscious, one of the arresting officers stole $150 from his wallet. After the contrived charges against him were dismissed, Anderson filed a lawsuit against complaint with the Manor Police Department.

(Cross-posted from here.)

10:25 am on July 3, 2012
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