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Enforcer's avatar

Will an officer usually charge a shop owner with possession in a CUSTOMER's vehicle?

Asked by Enforcer (281 points ) August 15th, 2010

I had taken my car to get painted and had accidentally left a bag of weed in it. The painter had called me and told me he didn’t have the money to spray my car because he was arrested for this bag of weed. The bag contained a little over a gram. It was dirt reggs by the way.

He claimed he was pulled over for my cracked taillight and the officer had searched the vehicle and found the weed. The problems with this story are:

1) A cracked taillight does not translate to the probable cause necessary to search the vehicle especially considering it was a customer’s vehicle. He claims he denied the right to search but they brought dogs. A denial of search does not constitute PROBABLE CAUSE (even more than reasonable suspicion). Even the fact that he has had priors does not constitute probable cause. He must have been drunk, high, or just a dick to that cop or did not assert his rights.

2) He had a receipt showing it was a customer vehicle. When the cop runs the plate it shows as a customer’s vehicle. I had a million pay stubs littered all over the floor with my name. I know “technically” he was in possession but would most cops be understanding of this.

I feel he is just yanking my chain and trying to get some more money out of me. If this is true however are there any ways I can help him WITHOUT taking a charge myself. Does he have a good chance of winning in court? Should I feel responsible or did he fail to assert his rights\was doing something wrong in the first place.

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13 Answers

Seaofclouds's avatar

Why was he out driving your car around (it’s not like he was doing a repair and wanted to be sure that it was running properly)? I don’t know what he could have done to lead the cops to search the vehicle, but I’m sure there must have been something. As far as them finding the weed, for all they know, it could have been his. They found it while he was in possession of the vehicle and possession is 9/10s of the law (so I’ve heard). It doesn’t really matter whose car he was in (wether you were a customer or a friend letting him borrow your car). If one of your friends left weed in your car and you were caught with it, you would be responsible for it. The only way I could see you getting him out of it would be confessing that the weed was yours and not his. I don’t know if they could charge you since they didn’t catch you with it on you, but they might be able to since you would be confessing that it was yours. I’m not sure what getting arrested for the weed has to do with him being able to paint your car, unless he just can’t afford to buy the paint before hand now (if you were going to be paying afterwards).

I would feel bad about him being arrested because of my stuff. Do you trust him enough to believe he is telling the truth? Do you think he could be making it up (like he found your stash, took it, and is now making an excuse)? I would talk to a lawyer before making any decisions if you are planning to try to help him get out of it.

Enforcer's avatar

Well he was doing the body work at his house and taking it to get sprayed at the shop. He seems like a nice guy, but even nice guys get desperate for money.

I have an attorney I can speak with (my school gives free legal aid).

I know the law says he is in possession, but wouldn’t a cop exercising common sense just take the bag and throw it away or something.

He is charging me $1000. I gave him $500 up front for materials and paint. He claims he had to use the money for bail (most people get written arrests for simple possession though… hmmm???). He must pay the shop owner so that he can use the spray booth.

I have been driving with that cracked taillight for over a year and did not get pulled over ONCE for that taillight alone.

john65pennington's avatar

First, did he have permission to be driving your vehicle? second, the driver of a vehicle is responsible for any traffic or criminal violations sustained, while in control of the vehicle, whether or not he is the owner. the vehicle did not violate the law, the driver did. third, your illegal pot got you and the painter in trouble with the law…...good.

Enforcer's avatar

He did have permission. He was painting my vehicle. May I ask what this has to do with charging him with possession

I understand the second point, but how does that constitute reasonable suspicion to search the vehicle? I can understand him getting the tail-light ticket, but no where does that even bring suspicion. No one could smell that weed at all. It was a few weeks old and dirt. Only a dog could smell that. I would assume he has a good case since I have seen many people beat the charge with a substantially worse case than that

Third, I know you are a cop but a single gram of weed…. Would you really arrest a shop owner over a SINGLE GRAM OF WEED. Why would you be happy for that? He is a hard working man and so am I. How did I get in trouble?

Is there anything I can do john65

john65pennington's avatar

Maybe the officer already knew he had a record for illegal drugs. some jurisdictions do not have to have a reason to stop a driver. its legal for most state troopers and some local police. each jurisdiciton is different. the vehicle was registered to you and this makes you responsible, along with the driver for the contents inside the vehicle. the painter may have had the smell of alcohol on his breath. if so, this would be probable cause for the officers to take the action they did. just about anything can establish probable cause for a search of a vehicle. did he have any outstanding warrants? if so, he would be arrested and the vehicle towed. the evidence may have been discovered as the officers made an inventory search. if you have not talked to the painter, do so. there seems to be something missing here on his part.

Enforcer's avatar

I have spoke to him. Are there any specific questions I should ask?

I don’t think the vehicle was towed since he told me I would be able to pick it up. He never mentioned towing or impound fees to me. He did say he was arrested though.

He claimed the officer had pulled him over and since he had priors they wanted to search the vehicle. I told him he should have denied and he said he did but they brought the dogs (I doubt he denied though). He then said he was arrested. I really don’t think I’ll be charged…. This is a registered business, not just some friend I let borrow my car.

Assuming he was not drunk and had no OUTSTANDING warrants does prior charges and a blown taillight ALONE constitute probable cause? If simply anything could constitute probable cause we would not have warrants or rights…

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Enforcer I asked about driving your car just to see if he had permission to drive your vehicle. Some cops don’t let anything go, others give warnings (because of his priors, I doubt the cop would have given him a warning). Why they searched the vehicle depends on what happened at the time he was pulled over. I once had my vehicle searched after driving around a neighborhood and looking at Halloween decorations because the cop said my behavior was suspicious. He didn’t believe a 16-year-old would just want to drive around a neighborhood and look at decorations. I had nothing to hide, so I told him to go ahead and search it. It was his time wasting, not mine.

Perhaps this guy didn’t tell them not to search it, perhaps he felt he had nothing to hide so he said go for it. Only he and the cop know what really went down.

As far as the money, when you gave him the $500 deposit, was their any kind of contract written up about the work and what the deposit was for. It sucks that he got arrested for your weed, but the fact that he has priors is probably more reason why the cop didn’t drop it and didn’t believe him that it wasn’t his. Nonetheless, he shouldn’t have used your deposit as bail money. If you had a contract with him, you could try to go through small claims for breach of contract to get your money back, but good luck explaining that one in court. I doubt any judge would be sympathetic for you.

You are really looking at two different issues, 1) his drug charge and 2) the work he agreed to do on your vehicle. I would focus on keeping them separate.

john65pennington's avatar

Seaofclouds, good answer. two different issues here. one is a criminal situation, the other is civil.

Enforcer's avatar

Thanks for the answer guys

@Seaofclouds

Yes but you had the right to deny that search and LEGALLY he should have just left you alone afterwards.

I am not worried about my money. He promised he would complete the work next week and I will just drive the car around primered for a week :p. I just feel really bad for the man and I want to help him. Should I be feeling bad? Is it my fault?

Seaofclouds's avatar

I had the right to deny it, but if they really wanted to, they would have found a reason to do it. I don’t have a problem with a cop wasting his time on a pointless search. Like I said, he was wasting his time. I didn’t have anything better to do at that time.

Personally, yes I think you should feel bad and it is your fault for having it in your vehicle. It should have been you being busted, not him. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s how I feel.

YARNLADY's avatar

Go to court with him, and admit it was your stash, and take the consequences.

Enforcer's avatar

@YARNLADY

See but the thing is if I was the driver I would NOT have been searched. No offence but I am white and have no priors so I am the last to get searched over others who I know. If I am asked to be searched I assert my rights and calmly go about my way. A taillight ALONE provides no reason for the officer to search me, none none none whatsoever. I was told to NEVER admit guilt. If I were to admit it was mine in court there would be no chance in hell that an attorney can finagle my way out of the charge. If I ever am caught with weed I bank on the GOOD chance that my attorney will get my charge dropped.

Is there anyweay I can testify on his behalf, with immunity. Admit I KNOW the stash was not his, but never quite say it was mine. I will have to talk to a lawyer.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Enforcer They want to punish someone for it. There could be other things about the situation that you don’t know (like was he on probation)? Just being around it could have been a violation of his probation and it wouldn’t matter if it was his or not. The only way you could get immunity would be working out a deal with the prosecutor. Any deal would involve an admission of guilt.

As far as being white and never being searched, don’t count on that always working out. All you need is one pissed of cop that doesn’t like something you did or said and they will find a reason to search you if they really want to. Just because you refuse it doesn’t guarantee that they will listen (like if they have probable cause).

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