What to say if the police should stop you for suspected drug possession

Lauren Vazquez advises people about four magic phrases that one must memorize and tell police in that particular order if ever you are stopped by them on suspicion of having marijuana.

If you use pot you are a criminal.

This is true [according to federal authorities] even in Colorado and Washington, where the feds continue to outlaw cannabis. This is also true in California and other states that provide medical protection. This means the police not only have the right, but the obligation to try and stop you (though state police cannot legally enforce federal law). Fortunately, you do not have to help them. The United States Constitution gives you rights that protect you during police encounters. It is the job of the police to find evidence of a crime. It is not your job to confess or help them. They get paid quite well, so please do not do their job for them. Your job is to do and say the right things to protect yourself and defend your rights.

During a police encounter, the best case scenario is you will be let go with a warning or simple citation. The worst case is, you or someone you love will get hurt. No one should be the victim of police brutality, but it happens. Cops are jumpy. They are trained to be suspicious. Do not make any sudden moves they can claim were threatening. Be polite and respectful, even if the courtesy is not returned. Remember, the police do not have the final word and while they may be able to harass, intimidate, and arrest you, the real fight is in the courtroom before the judge and jury. But you must actually survive the police encounter first before you can win the battle in court.

To win that court battle, your lawyer needs to be able to prove the police acted illegally and the evidence should therefore be thrown out. The goal is to get all the evidence tossed so that there is no case left against you. If you give police permission, your lawyer will not be able to argue they acted illegally and there will not be much s/he can do to defend you. This is why what you do and say are very important. Your lawyer needs you to say the “magic words.” These are words that limit what the police can do and will help your lawyer prove the police acted illegally.

So what are the four phrases? They are:


She explains what rights are protected by each phrase.


  1. DonDueed says

    Important words to know, whether you’re a drug user or activist (or any other citizen, for that matter).

  2. sonofrojblake says

    There are a few things that need to be added to this advice.

    First, and perhaps obviously (or perhaps not) it only applies in the USA. Police in the UK do get a little tired of coming across people who’ve seen too many movies or read too many internet forums and think they have a right to decline to be searched, or a right to remain silent.

    Second: you can decline consent to be searched, but that’s only any good if the cop doesn’t have probable cause. If he (or his dog) smells weed on you (or your car), then decline all you like, you’re getting searched, legally.

    It’s probably also worth saying that these quite possibly are magic words if you’re white. If you’re not, maybe not so much.

  3. says

    Second: you can decline consent to be searched, but that’s only any good if the cop doesn’t have probable cause.

    Cops also regularly violate your 4th amendment rights by gaming the system: they can hold you until they get a warrant. And, when they do, they destroy the interior of your vehicle and your possessions and they’re effectively detaining you under surveillance for as long as it takes to get the warrant.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    Coincidentally after writing the above I fell down a hole on Youtube watching videos relating to “sovereign citizens” and their interactions with law enforcement. These are people who think there are practically literal “magic words” they can use to make cops go away. They’ve read about it (and it seems quite often paid to read the advice) and think they can just declare themselves outside the law.

    My favourite was a woman who stood in a court and challenged the (very patient) judge to prove he had jurisdiction. After several polite entreaties to proceed with her defence (she was representing herself, because of course she was), all of which were met with a screeched “Prove you have jurisdiction!”, the judge calmly said “OK, I’m gonna prove I have jurisdiction right now by having the deputy take you into custody. Go ahead Mike…”, at which point the woman was literally tackled to the ground by four large men, screaming the whole while. It was hilarious.

    What baffles me about these people is this: most of their interactions with law enforcement (or at least the ones that make it to Youtube) are trivial. They’re the sort of thing that someone like me could have completed sorted and forgotten about in minutes -- traffic violations or whatever. Show your licence, pay the ticket, move on. Perhaps because the majority of these dolts are white, the police are almost invariably reasonably polite to them (by US standards, which is to say abrupt to the point of being abusive, but hey, USA). The “sovereign citizen” escalates and escalates until they’re being bundled screaming into the back of a squad car. The really baffling thing is this: I’ve gone looking for a “sovereign citizen” video where their shit works. I’ve seen dozens, perhaps hundreds, where it doesn’t, where things go fairly badly for them (although AFAIK not even one has been even shot much less killed yet). I can’t find even a single reliable report of this nonsense helping in any way, yet people still pull it on cops regularly. More surprisingly, people are still apparently able to make money selling the advice on how to do it. How is that even legal? Oh yeah -- free speech. smh

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