Warning: Carrying Garden Seeds Can Get You Searched For Drugs

Last night, I was subjected to an extensive drug search at Sydney's central station after a sniffer dog plucked me out of the crowd. Over the next 20 minutes, I was made to answer questions, hand over my licence, take off my shoes, empty the contents of my bag and stand spreadeagled against a wall while a police officer patted me down; all in full view of the public. Eventually, they found what had set the dog off — a bag of novelty garden seeds. No really.

For some reason, NSW Police thought that Wednesday evening was the perfect time to launch a drug operation on random train commuters wearily heading home from work. I was unlucky enough to be strolling past in the midst of the crackdown.

As I passed the above sniffer dog, I knew something was up: it took a whiff at me and then kind of zeroed its snout towards my jeans pocket (worryingly close to my crotch, I might add). Before I could say anything, a second police officer sprang out of nowhere and informed me that they had reason to believe I was carrying an illicit drug.

They corralled me into a corner near the CityLink staircase and proceeded to ask me about my drug habits: did I have any drugs on my person? Had I recently smoked cannabis? Had I been around people who had been smoking cannabis? Obviously, I answered in the negative each time. Meanwhile, my train was due to arrive any minute, which caused me to repeatedly glance at my phone's clock until they told me to place it on the floor. I was then made to remove my shoes and splay myself against a wall while one of the police officers patted me down. They also wrote down my name, address and mobile phone number.

These photos were taken after I'd been searched, incidentally.

Now, I have no idea whether any of the above treatment was a violation of my civil rights — but you tend to just go with the flow when multiple police officers are telling you to do stuff. Short of being ordered to strip and bend over for a cavity search, I was going to agree to whatever they wanted. Meanwhile, hundreds of fellow commuters were gawping at me as they walked past, just as I've often done myself. Until that moment, I'd always assumed the guy getting patted down probably had something to hide.

After making me empty my pockets and fiddling about with the waistband of my jeans, the police decided to go through my bag. This was the most traumatic part; and not because I was worried they'd find anything illegal.

Y'see, my bag is like a Doctor Who Tardis specifically designed for refuse — it's filled to bursting with all manner of weird junk, some of which dates back decades. Among the items they wordlessly pulled out were an old Amiga Power magazine from 1994, an Avengers Vs. X-Men graphic novel, a Leap Motion controller, old bills, old socks, a macaron stuffed inside a muesli bar box and a Loreal face cream for men (look, it was just a phase I was going through. Shut up.) There was also, inexplicably, a black cape. I have no idea where this came from or how it got in there.

Finally, one of the police officers found something that gave him pause.

"What's this?", he asked as his partner stepped closer, presumably to block off my escape.

At first, I had no idea what I was looking at. Then I remembered what it was. Around eight months ago, Electronic Arts sent out a bag of novelty garden seeds to promote the video game Plants vs. Zombies 2. Like everything that comes across my desk, I stuffed it in my bag and swiftly forgot about it. Now they had come back to haunt me.

"Er, they're seeds," I replied weakly. "...Normal seeds. Not drug seeds." I quickly added. The police officers both carefully examined the contents. After a few nail-biting moments, they agreed to let me go. The moral to the story is that sniffer dogs are idiots. Also, you might want to leave your horticulture gear at home during drug crackdowns. Tch.


Comments

    Regardless of guilt/innocence. Always hand them your licence ID and say once "I use my rights to remain silent". Your job is done until they let you go. You are innocent until proven otherwise.

      This kind of pretentious nonsense annoys me. Do you also refuse breath tests if you go through a booze bus? If you've got nothing to hide, then just go along with it, answer their questions, and it'll all be over once they've established your innocence. By getting your social activist hat on and remaining silent all you're doing is wasting both the police's and your time. Imagine how the situation would've escalated if the cops asked Chris if he had any drugs on him and he refused to answer.

      tl;dr: Don't be a dickhead.

        I get stopped by cops a lot. I have one of those faces, one of those stances. Walking down the street from my home, doing a lap around the block for some exercise, several times when waiting for cabs. Hell, once I was questioned twice in ten minutes, waiting at a cab rank...
        Profiling is obviously in use, and I obviously fit a shady profile. Which is ironic, given that the only official file they have on me probably only lists two speeding tickets and several instances of turning in money I've found on the street. I've been asked what I'm doing, where I'm going, where I live, pretty frequently.

        And out of consideration for their thankless job, I'm helpful and cooperative right off the bat. That's usually enough - I'm articulate and can speak well, my eyes are rarely bloodshot or reddened. Certainly lucid, never on drugs.

        But I draw the line at invasion of privacy or being made into a public spectacle.
        So no, I think @northerndoubt has the right idea in that situation. They want to try to humiliate me in public for no good reason, then they've earned a waste of their fucking time.

        I won't put up with it without making my objection well-known, and I wouldn't expect anyone else to, either. Emptying your bag into the street in a busy public thoroughfare? That's nothing like driving through a breath-test checkpoint from the anonymity of your car and without the suspicions cast by having a dog in your balls.
        Nope. That sort of situation, they're going to find me as uncooperative as my legal rights will allow. It's simply one of those 'prices' we're told we have to pay for security, and I'm unwilling to pay it.

          Totally agree with not saying anything at all but I think as a member of the public we are often put between 'a rock and a hard place' when we are put on the spot accused of something that we didn't do.
          There is no doubt that police are intimidating (when you are being searched etc), which is how they should be, because if they weren't intimidating they wouldn't be doing their job correctly.

          Although many of us would like to think that we would 'declare silence' in a situation like this, the majority of the time when we are put on the spot, the intimidation and pressure from the officers often causes us to totally forget or 'not have the balls' to tell them that you are remaining silent. This is just a natural reaction by the body in high pressure situations.

          In saying this, sometimes remaining silent may not be the best plan. For instance in Chris' situation, if had of remained silent, the police most likely would have had more suspicion that the seeds in the bag were not actually what they looked like but rather something illicit.
          Forgive me on my law knowledge (not a lawyer), but with an indication from the dog, and a search finding the above (I can't really determine the thickness and texture from the picture but look like they could contain whatever), there is a reasonable chance that it LOOKS like it is illegal to the officers. This gives them probable cause to take it further.
          Which in this situation, would have made the whole night a lot longer with a trip to the police station blah blah etc.

          Whereas because Chris, cooperated fully and told them what they actually were, it gives him some credibility in a sense (from human to human anyway).

          BUT my personal opinion and what I think everyone should at least 'plan' to do is to remain silent.
          As they say when being arrested, "Anything you do or say WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU in a court".

          Note: They do not say 'used for you', only against.
          So in that case it is better to remain silent altogether.
          (That is if you don't crumble under the pressure!)

          Last edited 05/06/14 7:40 pm

        Unfortunately, being truthful and having done nothing wrong can still screw you over.
        If you were and say you were at home last night, but someone *mistakenly* thought they saw you at some other location, suddenly you are lying, have something to hide. Just don't answer anything.

      You have no right to silence. We are in Australia not America, we have no fifth amendment

        WRONG

          http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/oppn-slammed-over-nsw-right-to-silence-law/story-e6frfku9-1226601328430

          Australia has no constitutional protection for the right to silence, but it is broadly recognized by State and Federal Crimes Acts and Codes and is regarded by the courts as an important common law right. In general, criminal suspects in Australia have the right to refuse to answer questions posed to them by police before trial and to refuse to give evidence at trial. However a person must answer questions related to their name and place of residence if asked to by police. As a general rule judges cannot direct juries to draw adverse inferences from a defendant's silence (Petty v R) but there are exceptions to this rule, most notably in cases which rely entirely on circumstantial evidence which it is only possible for the defendant to testify about (Weissensteiner v R). The right does not apply to corporations (EPA v Caltex).

        Wrong. Depending on state (pretty much all the same). Dependent on act (legislation) you are 1. Required to provide personal particulars (never phone number) and if placed under arrest the right to silence.

    What a waste of tax payer's money and humiliation for you. I hope 20 people walking past while they holed you up were carrying.

    Meanwhile genuine complaints that get called in for real crimes go un-investigated.

    Interesting fact: crime rate is down in Colorado since legalising recreational marijuana.

      Of course it is down. Possession is no longer a crime. Every other crime rate could remain the same or even have gone up slightly.

        "Breathing now no longer illegal. Crime rate plummets!"
        Although, I think your point may have also subtly been @thecog's point.

        "Between January 1 and April 30, violent crime and property crime in Denver — the most populated city in Colorado, in terms of both people and weed dispensaries — dropped 10.6 percent compared to that same span one year earlier, official statistics reveal. Homicides have dropped to less than half of last year’s levels, and motor vehicle theft has shrunk by over one-third. "

        http://rt.com/usa/163644-colorado-marijuana-crime-drop/

        So *other* crimes have also dropped, quite noticeably.

        Basically, because marijuana possession was illegal, (1) people using it became criminals and therefore lost one incentive for not committing other crimes; (2) prices for marijuana were artificially inflated because it could only be obtained illegally, and the increased prices resulted in more criminal activity as people committed crimes to finance their habit.

        Most drug laws are ironically intended to "protect" the drug users, in much the same manner as high taxes on smoking and alcohol. While the number of people affected goes down, the effects on the lives of those who continue to take drugs are made radically worse. IMO it's not a particularly sensible tradeoff.

        I speak here as a teetotalling nonsmoker who has never taken an illegal drug. Most anti-drug laws do much more harm than good.

        Last edited 05/06/14 7:20 pm

          I would hardly call giving users a criminal record "protecting" them.

          As for the downsides of Colorado's legalisation, only time will tell. Alcohol causes untold harm to families and kills one person every ten seconds globally, but we've learnt to live with it through sensible use of legislation. No one really suggests outlawing it again. Yet there's never been a recorded death attributed directly to marijuana use. In fact, there's no known lethal dose.

          As for the cops going after commuters carrying small amounts? It's such a waste of time and money. No large quantities are going to be carried through a train station, so you're left with users who are being targeted. There's good evidence that marijuana use doesn't cause the harm we've been brought up to believe.

          For instance, two studies in to the risk of lung cancer from smoking marijuana suggest that marijuana smokers may have a marginally lower risk compared to non-smokers (of any substance)
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22235088
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19004418

          long term uses also doesn't kill brain cells. In fact, it may be neuroprotective and actually promote brain cell growth
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1253627/

          All-in-all, I support the jobs the cops do, but it's a misuse of resources.

          I believe prices for cannabis haven't changed much. The variety of ways to ingest have increased however. Everything from cookies to candy, oils, hash etc etc. The taxes imposed on cannabis products have resulted in similar prices as pre-legalisation. The crime rate has still dropped. Your average pot smoker doesn't do break and enters, muggings or corner store hold-ups to get money for pot. Another interesting stat is the drop in alcohol related offences. Seems a number of people have chosen to smoke rather than drink, now that they don't have the risk of criminality hanging over their heads.

    You basically got bullied, if you didnt comply youd get your ass served to you. Alcohol is legal yet they harass people about weed or other drugs. People are forced to buy poor quality shit of the street cause of some retartdes in power.

    The moral to the story is that sniffer dogs are idiots.

    Ummmmm?

      That was a joke there. But seriously, the dog clearly didn't know its nose from its arse!

        Reminds me of Clover Moore calling for a ban on sniffer dogs because they picked out two people with drugs on them who claimed "it wasn't mine"
        http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/07/09/1089000328462.html?from=storylhs

        We have to remember that working with dogs has 2 "issues"
        1 - their nose is something like 10,000 times better than ours so they can pick up even trace amounts
        2 - they're not smart enough to discriminate between someone carrying an ounce of weed and someone who has accidentally stepped on a joint.

        So I don't think it's the dog that is the issue. I think it's a typical government solution - go after the smallest fish in the pond in the hope of using that to catch a bigger one later on.

    From the picture they do not look at all like seeds, more like some form of LSD. I'm surprised the cops let you go so easily, despite your known innocence. Despite the comments above about them wasting time, and "using your right to remain silent". At the end of the day they are doing their job, just like you go into the lifehacker office and post articles about the police searching you for a job.

      No, a lot of those cops are young and it is a power trip.

      Getting stopped, and then a cop taking their time for triple check your train ticket and student ID isn't "doing a job" its "I've got a position of authority and you can't do anything until I say so".

    But don't you feel safer now? Because you are. It's about public safety, and keeping evil people off the street. SAFE!

    The whole sniffer dog thing is a complete waste of time, money and resources. I'm too lazy to look up the stats but their pretty much ineffective at catching anyone but casual users, and despite the overwhelming evidence they persist with it. This kind of practice is too common and draconian for a country like Australia.

    The smart thing for drug dealers to do would be to lace the train & bus seats with cannabis & meth, etc. (then dispose of any they were carrying) so the sniffer dogs made so many false positives as to prove useless as an aid to detection.

    You never know, one day they'll stop some guy at a train station with 6 kilos of heroin and give justification for the cost of running the dog program, and all those people they busted carrying a 'fiddy' bag or a point of whizz. Of course, the chances of someone being busted at a train station with huge amounts of drugs *ever*, is very, very slim.

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