By R. Eguia
I owe the state of Texas $800 for a bail bond, $400 for a misdemeanor marijuana possession fine, and I paid $300 to recover my car from being impounded at my arrest.
I am eager to find out what lawyer fees and court fees accumulate in the next couple of months as I hope to get the charges dismissed.
My personal expenses do not compare however, to the amount that you will pay for my arrest.
According to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, it costs taxpayers $120 to arrest and book one person in an urban Texas county, and then another $62.97 for each day that the individual is detained.
Multiply these numbers by the 10 percent of total arrests in Texas for simple drug possession and taxpayers spend $378,820 every day on those arrested and incarcerated for drug possession, and that number is only increasing.
I was driving to dance rehearsal on Wurzbach when I passed a brand new model of police car.
Passing the speed limit sign of 35, I glanced at my speedometer: 41.
I was surprised when I saw the police car double back and turn the lights on in my direction.
I pulled over to inquire but never received a speeding citation.
What I did receive overwhelmed me. After presenting my insurance and identification, the officer said my car smelled like marijuana and asked me to get out of the vehicle.
When I asked if he had a warrant, he replied that he did not need one because he had “probable cause.”
He told me if I cooperated and gave him anything in the car, he would be much more lenient.
Cooperatively, I presented a pipe and a teeny tiny nugget of marijuana that was left in my car’s console the day before by a friend I was on my way to meet.
There was actually a substantial amount of my friends’ belongings in my car from weekend shenanigans that were in route to be returned to rightful owners at dance rehearsal.
I assured him there was nothing else in the car.
The officer called for assistance and three officers responded, including a female officer who searched me.
After almost an hour of officers checking every single article of clothing in my backseat, including weekend luggage and friends’ workout bags, the officer who pulled me over found a flashlight with marijuana inside it.
As he was cuffing me, he told me I was under arrest for possession. I tried to explain that the flashlight he found was in someone else’s bag, and I was ignorant of the fact the flashlight was full of weed.
He called me a liar and told to me to tell the judge.
The backseat of the cruiser was really nice, not plastic like I had assumed.
A computer monitor was positioned in the center console projecting a high contrast image of me sitting in handcuffs.
As we headed downtown, the officer let me pick the radio station and was surprised when I requested the jazz station.
Upon arrival, I was photographed, fingerprinted, and searched again in the middle of the magistrate’s office, surrounded by fearless, window-humping men.
As the officer walked me over to the women’s holding cell, she assured me none of the women were felons.
I crossed the threshold with peace signs and salutations toward my fellow jail friends, who were lying on the floor and sitting on the long single bench in the long single cell.
Many were in for tickets and warrants and the rest, prostitution and shoplifting.
As a first-time jailed person, I learned the process from my arresting officer and shared with other first-timers: wait about two hours and see the judge.
Wait about another two hours to discuss bail bonds.
Then wait until your bond is processed, which depending on the bond can take any where from two hours to one day.
I was eligible for a personal recognizance bond, which you have to supply references for and then those references must be contacted for the bond to be processed.
I was booked at 8:30 p.m. and released at 7:30 a.m. just in time for my 8 a.m. lecture at SAC.
Sitting in class, it sunk in what had just happened.
My boyfriend’s voice echoed in my mind, articulating all of the things I did wrong, including letting the cops search my car without a warrant.
I could have locked my car and placed the keys on the vehicle and demanded a warrant, but I struggled to reason under the pressure of the cops.
I could have cleaned my car out and left my friends’ belongings at home or refused to hold them at all.
I don’t blame the owner of the flashlight or the paraphernalia left in my console, although I do wish they had disclosed the contraband.
There is also the hovering thought of if this were to take place in a state only hours away, I would have walked away from the entire escapade.
Despite the repercussions of the charges, I stand inspired.
The decriminalization of marijuana is a relevant debate, that I am now personally invested in.
Texas has the fourth highest incarceration rate and a large percentage is composed of nonviolent drug charges.
The state can have my money, but they can’t have me.
This experience has served as the best catalyst for my involvement in pushing the Texas Legislature to decriminalize marijuana.