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An Ex-Cop Reveals How Easy it is for Anyone to Get Arrested, How Even a Single Arrest Could Ruin Your Life, and What to do if the Police Get in Your Face
By Dale C. Carson, Wes Denham
Chicago Review Press Incorporated Copyright © 2014 Dale C. Carson Sam Wesley Denham III
All rights reserved.
NEW PLANTATIONS FOR NEW GENERATIONS
Everybody knows about the big parts of the system — cops, judges, and state prisons. This chapter is about the parts of the system you don't know about. I call them the plantations, because these hidden parts of the system will keep you in the perpetual servitude of low-wage jobs and constant trouble with police and authorities. Remember, if you're not really a bad guy, just someone who is clueless or has bad judgment, you're not going to spend time in a state penitentiary. You'll land in the local lockup, then shortly be released on probation or placed in the drug-court system. What no one will tell you is that, once the arrest clerk puts your name in the computer, you have just entered the twilight hell of the plantations. Below I explain how it works.
IT STARTS WITH THE ARREST
Most arrests are logged at once into the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Even if the prosecutor declines the case or you are quickly released or you are ultimately judged innocent and acquitted, you've got an arrest record. This arrest record will never go away. It will stay with you and haunt you for the rest of your life. It's your entry to the plantations.
In addition to arrest records, there are criminal court records (local, state, or federal records), corrections records (prison records), and state criminal repository records (statewide records composed of arrest records, criminal court records, and correction records). Certain misdemeanor arrests are not recorded; others are. In addition, there is a second national database of criminal information called the National Criminal File (NCF). But let's keep this simple. Assume that when you get arrested and fingerprinted, your records are going into the computers and they're never coming out. The short version: when you're printed, you're toast.
It doesn't matter that you're a juvenile and that your state arrest record at some point is sealed by a judge (federal arrest records cannot be sealed). You hear all the time on TV about records being "sealed." Have you ever wondered how this is done? What do judges seal them with? Tape? Wax? Staples? Chewing gum? Heck, everything is on computers. Do you think a clerk for some local judge whose authority doesn't run past the state line can call the government of the United States of America and tell them to seal your arrest records? Think again.
It gets worse. Here's an actual case that illustrates what happens with arrests and computers. I represented a client who was arrested while driving a vehicle in which police found weapons and narcotics during a traffic stop. None of it belonged to my client, and the state's attorney (prosecutor) dropped all charges. However, for the rest of this guy's life, every time he's stopped for a traffic violation, the police officers will run his license number through the NCIC. When his arrest record appears, it will have a heading that says "armed trafficking." Any cops seeing this will thoroughly search him and his car. They may handcuff him and draw their weapons because they will suspect that he could be armed and dangerous. For the rest of his life, every routine traffic stop will turn into a nightmarish confrontation with police.
The fact that arrest records are computerized, maintained by the federal government, and accessible to local law enforcement, state agencies, and far too many private employers is the reason you need to arrest-proof yourself. To keep from ruining your life at a young age, you need to avoid cops like the plague and never, ever get arrested for anything, no matter how trivial.
Still not worried? Of course not! This is America. You have rights! A good lawyer can get adjudication withheld and the records expunged. The whole thing will be as if it never happened. Right? That was right — decades ago. Prior to the invention of the copying machine, the fax, and the computer, criminal records existed only on paper and only in the jurisdiction in which the person was arrested. When records were expunged, a clerk tore a page out of a book or tossed out a file folder, and the records were gone forever.
Even when records remained, anyone wanting to discover whether a person had arrests and convictions had to contact each city or state in which the arrests occurred. To make copies, clerks literally had to photograph paper records, an expensive and tedious procedure. All anyone had to do to escape youthful indiscretions was blow town. Nowadays, that doesn't work. Once you're in the 'puter, my friend, you're there for life.
The federal database, the NCIC, is not your only problem. Every week, another city or county digitizes its arrest information going back decades and dumps everything onto the Internet so everyone, not just cops, can see records anytime, day or night. You can run from your arrests, but you can't hide.
THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE PLANTATION
Guess what? The system needs you. It's huge. It's no small chore keeping the jails filled; government employees at work; and those tax dollars, fines, and court costs rolling in. The problem nowadays is that, in many cities, serious crime is way down. The cops are great at arresting the really bad guys, and state legislatures have passed stiff sentencing guidelines that put felons away for decades. What you'll never see, however, is a headline like this: "Crime Down — Judges Laid Off, Cops Furloughed, Jails to Close."
So what to do? If murderers, armed robbers, rapists, and drug dealers are in short supply, the system fills itself with graffiti writers, jaywalkers, petty drug users, drivers with suspended licenses, and clueless types who mouth off to cops. The criminal justice system needs inmates to survive. This bureaucratic imperative to make ever more arrests is never absent from the decisions of cops and judges, and it's never discussed.
You're worth real money when you're busted. For example, if you're arrested for a petty federal offense like making phony IDs (yes, computer-buying moms and dads, Junior can be arrested on a federal charge, as was one of my stepsons, by the Homeland Security Agency and the Secret Service for using the 'puter to make phony IDs to buy beer), the state gets paid more than $150 per day by the federal government for every day you're in custody, since the federal government does not have pretrial detention facilities, i.e., jails. One of my clients was tossed into a cell with 10 other federal inmates. That's 11 inmates at $150 per day, or $1,650 per cell per day. That's as much as the toniest resorts get for presidential suites. Understandably, officials think of jails as hotels that can be profitably filled. All the people around you — cops, guards, clerks, bailiffs, judges, lawyers, probation officers, social workers — are making a good living off you.
Once arrested, you enter the criminal justice plantation. You're there to work, or more accurately, to ensure that state and city employees work. All you get is a place to flop and crummy food. Like a slave, you're branded with your owner's mark. Your fingerprints, case number, social security number, photograph, and description (and, soon, DNA) are filed.
Even when you're released on probation, you're still on the plantation. You and your home can be searched at any time. You have to sign away the right to a warrant and judicial review of searches as a condition of probation. If probation officers so decide, they can administer drug tests and strip-search and body-cavity search you at any time. Probation officers are not, repeat not, social workers. They're outdoor jailers. And you're paying them! Big dollars monthly in probation charges! Try paying that bill flipping burgers, sweeping floors in a warehouse, or stocking shelves at Wal-Mart.
JUVIE HALL AIN'T NO MALL
Kids, here's a bit of advice from your Uncle Dale: Stay out of juvenile detention! You've heard it called cute names like juvie hall. You've heard it's not so bad, sort of a cross between a dormitory and a cheap motel. Forget everything you've heard. Juvenile detention is kid jail — period. It's the criminal justice plantation for kids.
Worse, in many states there're no bail bonds for kids, no notice to appear (see page 14) in lieu of arrest, and no release into your parents' custody. Get busted, and you're going in.
Inside there's generally no rehabilitation, no work, nothing except jail cells and jailers. When you go in, you'll be strip -searched. If the corrections officers think you're carrying drugs, they will force open your mouth and poke around in there. The officers will not be concerned about you as a person. Their job is to process your body through the system. They care only about getting food in, waste out, grunge showered off, and jumpsuits changed as per regulation. Mostly they care about keeping you locked up until a judge decides what to do with you. If you become sufficiently annoying, they will strap you into a detention chair and lock you in a soundproof cell so you can scream your head off without bothering anyone else.
Juvenile detention is one of the most dangerous places in your city or county. Some of the kids there will be stone killers who would very much enjoy cutting out your stomach and intestines with a plastic shiv. Other kids will be florid, unmedicated psychotics, which is medical jargon for saying that they're stark raving mad. Inside, kids yell day and night. They bang on their cells. The stronger ones attack the younger and weaker ones. The only difference between juvenile detention and adult jail is that in juvie the guards are usually not armed and are somewhat less likely than adult correctional officers to beat you when you misbehave.
With the improvements in computers and data transmission, you can wander into the criminal justice plantation even without getting arrested! This is due to something the general public never hears about, a little bit of police routine called the field interrogation reports (FI). Patrol cops are required to make notes about everyone they talk to when they respond to a call or make a street stop. They note your name and address, your appearance, what you're wearing, and where you're going. These reports are cross indexed and filed. When a crime is reported in your area, police can review FI cards and instantly know everyone they have encountered in the neighborhood. Back in the old days, FI reports were handwritten on cards. Today, in most cities, they're computerized files and instantly accessible.
As you can imagine, FI reports are extremely useful to police. They might not be so useful to you. Let's say you encounter police. They stop their cruiser, call you over, ask for your ID, and quiz you about where you live and where you're going — all typical questions whose answers go into FI reports. Let's suppose you're wearing a red T-shirt, blue jeans, and a baseball cap. All this gets noted down, and with the miracle of computers and wireless database transmission, the information becomes accessible to every cop in the city almost before the police cruiser gets out of sight.
"So what?" you say. The police didn't arrest you, and you go on your way. But what if a crime is committed later in your neighborhood, by a guy about your size wearing a red T-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap? You can bet the police will be at your doorstep within minutes. (Remember, you told them where you lived.) Now the cops are not cruising. They're investigating a recent crime and looking for a fleeing suspect. They're tense; they're edgy. They can arrest and hold you as a suspect. Even if charges are later dropped, you will have an arrest record.
Some of the police problems that minorities attribute to racism are actually routine police use of FI cards. You are likely to get arrested if you
* encounter police and become the subject of an FI card
* live in a neighborhood where crimes are being committed
* somewhat resemble the description of a criminal
I'll discuss this further in a section about why you don't want to chat up cops. Remember, the essence of staying free is staying away from cops and out of the system. The system is designed to arrest you, not to help you.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE? THE SOCIAL SERVICES PLANTATION
Guys, listen up! The worst thing about getting arrested as a juvenile is that an arrest dumps you onto yet another plantation — the social services plantation. In most cases a judge will order you into the custody, or at least the care, of social workers and their contractors. These people can ruin your life trying to help you. Next time you hear someone waxing sentimental about how it "takes a village" — meaning a village of social workers — to raise a modern child, you should run, preferably screaming as you run, as far away as possible. Many well-intentioned people, especially those whose income, education, and jobs mean that their children will never encounter social service workers, imagine that probation officers, juvenile judges, public defenders, guardians ad litem, caseworkers, foster parents, and government psychologists are like kindly schoolmarms and wise old preachers who gently guide wayward youth to truth, enlightenment, and the American way.
Wrong. I work with these people every day. They try hard. They want to do the right thing. All of them, without exception, are overwhelmed with cases; underpaid; and restricted by a web of complex, confusing, and frequently contradictory bureaucratic procedures. All of them together, the entire village, cannot care for children as well as the most mediocre parents. Getting into the social services plantation sometimes means getting help. Often, however, it means getting your brain fried with drugs and then being dumped into juvenile detention facilities and foster homes.
Always it means that the state will gather an enormous dossier of information on you. A gigantic file, your "jacket," stuffed with medical reports and "expert" opinions of your neuroses, psychoses, hang-ups, allergies, food preferences, IQ, and personality, will follow you around for life. You'll be officially certified as damaged goods. You'll be in the computer, in the system, for life, even if you never actually get arrested. Juvenile criminal records are generally separated from adult records, but in most states prosecutors can get to them. This means that, when you're on trial years later as an adult, a prosecutor can point out to the judge what a loser you've been practically since the day you got the diapers strapped on.
The social services system and its affiliate, the public schools, are obsessed with definitions of what is normal. This definition is narrowed every day by new studies, new expert opinions, and batteries of ever more subtle psychological tests. Anyone outside the acceptable range of behaviors is, by definition, abnormal and subject to state intervention, supervision, and labeling. I call this the tyranny of normalcy.
Let me give you an example. Years ago, children who got distracted, ran around a lot, slept very little, and did several things at once were called jittery, pesky, or a handful. Now such children are defined as suffering from attention-deficit disorder. Supposedly, nearly 10 percent of American children are so diseased. Most are given powerful psychoactive drugs. Some of these, like Ritalin, are related to amphetamines. Others are tranquilizers, antipsychotics, and neurotransmitter inhibitors, which were never approved for use by children and whose long-term effects are unknown. All of these drugs, without exception, are restricted, scheduled narcotics. Many are addictive, and all are sold illegally on the street. Possession of any of them without the prescription in your possession will land you in jail. When adults take tranquilizers for a decade or more, they are considered addicts. When children take them, they are considered normal. Of course the kids don't complain. They're drugged.
Excerpted from Arrest-proof yourself by Dale C. Carson, Wes Denham. Copyright © 2014 Dale C. Carson Sam Wesley Denham III. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
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