In what's being treated as a metaphor for the fruitlessness of the War on Drugs itself, New Jersey cops caused over $12,000 in damage to a BMW 325i, tearing it apart in search of marijuana. After tearing apart the dash, doors, seats and prying off exterior body panels, what'd they find? Nada.
Police impounded Darren Richardson's 2004 3-series after smelling a "strong odor of raw marijuana" during a routine traffic stop. When it was returned days later, Richardson found the dash cut apart, seats slashed, the console pried open and the bumpers and other body parts crudely pulled off his car. GEICO, his insurance company, estimated the damage at $12,636.42, more than he'd bought the car for. Totaled.
"The root of these problems, with the drug laws, is sometimes they (police departments) can't distinguish between the Medellin cartel and somebody smoking a spliff," an assistant district attorney told NJ.com.
Richardson has now filed a claim against the department for false arrest and malicious prosecution. There's also talk that GEICO may sue the department to recover the vehicle's loss.
The incident occurred after Richardson allegedly almost caused a traffic accident. Having served time in the past for drug-related charges, a sniffer dog was brought to the scene and indicated the presence of drugs in the BMW's trunk. Unable to find any drugs during an on-site search, the local cops impounded the vehicle and enlisted the aid of a Federal drug task force to complete a comprehensive search of the vehicle.
"The way they were acting, their whole demeanor, and the way I was antagonizing them, I knew they were going to mess with me," says Richardson of the incident. He and his passenger were initially charged with offenses ranging from evidence tampering, to resisting arrest to "making terroristic threats." All of which have now been downgraded to "petty disorderly persons offenses" that will be heard in municipal, not criminal court.
"This is a great illustration of the costs of this kind of enforcement, which yielded nothing for public safety," states the ACLU. "All those resources went for something that most Americans don't even think should be a crime."