Leon Orr’s Exceedingly Typical Marijuana Arrest
December 2, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Rarely, it seems, does a day go by where some professional athlete doesn’t get busted for possessing a controlled substance. One such recent arrestee is Leon Orr, a defensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins.
The headline gets right to the point:
Dolphins tackle arrested in Collier for drug possession
The initial synopsis, however, is more amusing:
Collier County deputies arrested a defensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins after finding marijuana hiding in his pants, the arrest report said.
Marijuana sure is tricky stuff; always hiding in people’s pants. And cops keep accidentally stumbling upon black guys in cars with tinted windows who’ve been waiting patiently for someone to do a routine inspection of their pants to see if there’s anything illegal hiding in there.
The sense of serendipity in that sentence is pretty amazing. It’s almost like the cops weren’t looking for a reason to stop Orr and then search him. It’s almost like Orr didn’t just knowingly possess marijuana for the same reasons lots of people knowingly possess marijuana.
Drug arrests are so common that only a tiny number of them are ever reported. It usually takes a lot of drugs or a famous defendant to get the mainstream media’s interest. The facts of Orr’s case certainly wouldn’t be newsworthy if it weren’t for the fact he’s a professional football player:
A patrol car pulled over Leon Orr, 24, for what appeared to be illegally tinted windows. The law enforcement officer said when he approached the car, he smelled marijuana coming from the car.
Those are about the most common stop and search justifications out there.
You probably think Orr must be a moron for driving around in a car with illegally tinted windows, but it’s unlikely the cops had some sort of device that told them the tint was in fact too dark. They probably just looked at the windows, thought they looked a little too dark, and stopped Orr because they’re allowed to stop someone to investigate both actual and suspected violations. The windows probably just appeared too dark. Maybe Orr got an illegal tint, a pretty stupid thing to do for a guy who’s going to drive around with marijuana in the car, but it’s just as likely that the tint was really fine but just close enough to illegal to justify a traffic stop.
Justifying a search of a vehicle by claiming to smell marijuana is probably an even more common cop thing to do. It’s a no-lose endeavor for a cop, really. If they pretend to smell marijuana and find nothing, they can just let the motorist go. Most of the time, no one ever hears about it or gives it much thought. If the driver does decides to sue for an illegal search, a bit of a rarity due to the fact there are usually no damages and it isn’t worth the trouble, the lack of any actual discovered marijuana doesn’t necessarily disprove the officer’s claim that he smelled it. Maybe someone in the car smoked it earlier and the smell was on an occupant’s clothes. Maybe they threw the drugs out the window but the odor remained. The claimed smell of pot is a no-risk white lie that gets cops a peek in whoever’s car, or ultimately pants, they want.
Even the way Orr acted was the standard way cops claim people act:
When asked to get out of the car, the deputy said Orr took a long time to follow directions. Then when searched, the deputy said he noticed Orr was hesitant because he had allegedly stuffed marijuana down his pants.
As with claiming there was an odor of marijuana, claiming a suspect was hesitant or slow to follow directions is a great thing for a cop to do whether it’s true or not. If they did have marijuana, that fact supports the cop’s claims. Of course Orr was hesitant and slow; he had weed on him and was probably high, right? The cop has the eventual discovery of marijuana on his side. And if Orr hadn’t had marijuana on him, not only would that fail to affirmatively disprove the cops’ claim, but the legality of the stop would likely never be litigated.
Orr will probably get some sort of diversion. He’ll probably take a class about how marijuana is bad, not believe any of it, and watch the whole thing go away after a brief period of time and some mild inconvenience. Worst case scenario, maybe he gets a criminal conviction on his record and pays a fine. That’ll be the end of it for him this time, but it likely won’t be the end of him or anyone else possessing marijuana and maybe getting caught with it.
Orr is the famous guy caught with marijuana today. Tomorrow it’ll be someone else, and the next day another. The cases will all look pretty much the same, just as they’ve looked for decades past. There’ll be the same standard claims by the police, maybe true but maybe not, and life and marijuana prohibition will keep going ahead just as it has for decades.
What we have is an assembly line of typical cases with the occasional factor making one stand out. For one moment, the case was Orr’s and the factor was his celebrity.