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Cop Performs Clearly Illegal Search

Here’s a story that may seem incredible but it’s actually quite routine. A deputy from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department named Dominic Fornal pulls over a car, claiming that he smelled unburned marijuana — quite a feat given that they were going 35 mph and the windows were up. A drug dog, amazingly, didn’t alert to the smell of anything, but that didn’t stop them from performing a clearly illegal search.

“You guys have a lot of marijuana in this car,” Fornal told the driver, Joseph McNeal, and his girlfriend.

“Pardon me?” asked McNeal, 42, a Sarasota businessman.

“Where’s the marijuana in this car? I smelled the marijuana when I got behind you guys,” Fornal said, according to a two-hour dashcam video of the stop. “I am searching this car. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it, but if you give me a little bit of marijuana, or a lot, or whatever you guys have, I can work with you.”

Two hours later, after three deputies, a Venice police officer and two drug-sniffing dogs searched the Jaguar — pulling off the headliner and pulling up the dashboard and center console — no unburned pot was found.

But wait, it actually gets worse. They arrested the guy for drunk driving, even though he was nowhere near the legal limit and then clearly tried to frame him:

McNeal was arrested on a DUI charge, though a breath test later showed his blood-alcohol level was .049, lower than the .08 level at which Florida considers a driver impaired.

He was also charged with possession of a burned marijuana “roach” that deputies say was eventually found in the Jaguar’s trunk, but was missed by the deputies and dogs who searched the vehicle several times.

The state’s attorney eventually dropped the charges because, well, they didn’t have a shred of evidence to back them up. Oh, and did I mention that at some point the deputy turned off his uniform microphone? And that he has a history of “questionable behavior at traffic stops”? And that rather than facing any disciplinary action at all, he’s now been moved to a unit that doesn’t have dashboard cameras in their cars? Welcome to American justice.

Comments

  1. Onamission5 says

    Because clearly, having his behaviors recorded is the real problem here, and not the behaviors themselves.

  2. F says

    Yep. Routine crap, that. I’ve seen it done to people who never had anything to do with recreational drugs in their lives. costing them days of time, and still railroaded through the system on some BS charges.

  3. pocketnerd says

    He was also charged with possession of a burned marijuana “roach” that deputies say was eventually found in the Jaguar’s trunk, but was missed by the deputies and dogs who searched the vehicle several times.

    “Eventually found” after multiple searches missed it? Does that set off alarm bells for anybody else?

  4. d cwilson says

    Well, look at it from the Deputy’s POV. Jaguars bring in a lot of money at police auctions, which means more money for the department. It would have been quite a coup if they had gotten the forfeiture pushed through. Why should he let little details like “evidence” or “innocence” get in the way?

    He was just looking out for the taxpayers, you know.

  5. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    Because clearly, having his behaviors recorded is the real problem here, and not the behaviors themselves.

    Same lesson we learned from Abu Ghraib.

  6. says

    “Where’s the marijuana in this car? I smelled the marijuana when I got behind you guys,” Fornal said, according to a two-hour dashcam video of the stop. “I am searching this car. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it, but if you give me a little bit of marijuana, or a lot, or whatever you guys have, I can work with you.”

    I don’t know about you, but to me, it sounds like this is how he gets his supply.

  7. opposablethumbs says

    Nothing remotely as bad as this, but my OH (guilty of Driving while Foreign-Looking) was stopped and accused of using a mobile phone while the vehicle was in motion (he might possibly have scratched his ear). He said he had no phone; cop 1 insisted he’d been phoning (cop 2 looked embarrassed). Cop 1 insists on searching the car for the mobile phone he must have hidden. They only gave up because there wasn’t a mobile phone anywhere in the car at the time. If he’d had a phone on him, it would have taken phone company records – a day or two later at the least – to prove he hadn’t been using it at the time they stopped him.

    Of course, most people do have a mobile phone these days. So there’s always a good reason to stop someone – and then search them – if you think they look Wrong.

    Oh well, at least our lot aren’t armed for the most part. Always grateful for that, at least.

  8. laurentweppe says

    Well, look at it from the Deputy’s POV. Jaguars bring in a lot of money at police auctions, which means more money for the department.

    Yeah, but people who can afford jaguars can also afford expansive attorneys who may decide to go nuclear on the uppity cop who decided to mistreat one of his betters.

  9. John Hinkle says

    Roaches can be pretty damn smelly. (I swear I heard that somewhere and have no firsthand knowledge, honest to goodness). So how could the dogs have missed it? Something stinks here.

  10. d cwilson says

    Yeah, but people who can afford jaguars can also afford expansive attorneys who may decide to go nuclear on the uppity cop who decided to mistreat one of his betters.

    Nah, it’s nearly impossible to sue a public employee in the course of their duties and as you can see, he faces no disiplinary actions for what he did. So, there’s no downside for him.

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