According to an article first published by The News Tribune, Tacoma, Washington police seized medical grade marijuana from a man during a traffic stop and charged him with misdemeanor possession. With proof no crime had been committed, the case was dismissed. However the police refused to return the property to the man. Even after the judge twice told them to return it. The police still refuse and will be facing contempt charges if they do not comply by the next court date, May 2, 2013. The situation is a mess for city police, county sheriff’s office, the court system, and maybe soon, the appellate court system.
The property is being stored at the sheriff department evidence locker. The sheriff has no legal right to release it. The police officers, or their superiors, have to physically get the property, sign for it, and then return it to the rightful owner. Police refuse, and from the looks of it, their bosses don’t mind that the officers think they are above the law. Maybe the chief of police thinks he is above the law too? What is the likelihood that after failing to comply with a court order and is now directly negatively affecting our ability to do our jobs we would still have a job?
Is it possible those police officers are being encouraged by their superiors to refuse to comply until the matter is forced up higher and higher courts until it reaches the Supreme Court of the United States? What then? What will be at stake then? Clearly the issue isn’t about if the municipal courts have jurisdiction over municipal peace keepers, because certainly they do.
Why don’t the officers just return it? Perhaps the police just don’t like that medical marijuana is being accepted in more and more states. Could it be they fear that legalizing marijuana for all is just around the corner?
What would happen if the property owner simply went to the county judge to ask for a court order forcing the sheriff’s evidence locker to return it to the city police? A great deal would be accomplished. The county would be out of this mess, completely. It puts the city police department in possession of the stolen property, for which now it can be charged along with the contempt charges. Isn’t that what the property is? Stolen property since a legal binding court order has declared the property legal and to be returned to its rightful owner?
This case is about more than some little amount of medical grade marijuana. It’s about the authority of a judge against the authority of police officers, their supervisors, and the chief of police to disobey a direct legal ruling. It’s about some local police officers thinking their opinions are greater than the lawmakers of the state, so they may disobey the law at will.
Sure, for the property owner, its about getting his very expensive medical grade marijuana back. More likely, for the owner, it’s the principle of the thing. We all understand that. But for the rest of the country, it’s about setting a legal precedence we may not want to set. What if we replaced “gun or weapon of your choice” or maybe “book” instead of “marijuana“? That might sound far fetched, but that is what setting precedence is all about. Do we want police officers and police forces thinking they are above the law in every respect when they don’t have to obey a judge? Do we want police to be able to seize things and not return them when there is no crime?
It’s tough to make sure the body of elected and appointed officials are doing the right thing all the time. The problem isn’t just police and judges, it’s every person in power who tries to circumvent the constitution for what ever purpose. The judge made a lawful order and those police officers are denying the owner his right to his property by failing to comply. Shame on the citizens for allowing it without protest.
Reference: The News Tribune