Counties Checking Up On Drugs

Counties Checking Up On Drugs
Posted by FoM on September 29, 1999 at 08:30:11 PT
By Brad McElhinny 
Source: Charleston Daily Mail 
LOGAN Now drivers have to face more than the traditional sobriety checkpoint. The latest obstacle in the war on drugs is the drug checkpoint.
State Police have erected checkpoints to search specifically for drugs eight times this year on West Virginia roads. The most recent checkpoint was Monday on U.S. 119 in Logan County.The program is receiving good reviews from many drivers, but it's a real downer for some."I don't like it. Put it that way," said one man who was fined and put on six months probation after police found him with what he described as four or five joints, a misdemeanor offense.This is the first year for the drug checkpoints. Eleven counties in West Virginia -- known for being in a region labeled the Marijuana Belt -- received a federal grant for the program.Police say most of the drugs captured are small amounts meant for only one user, so those drivers are cited for misdemeanors. But they say they sometimes capture enough to designate the driver as a dealer, an offense that is considered a felony and carries a stiffer penalty.On Monday, State Police halted traffic on both sides of U.S. 119 just outside Logan. Troopers asked drivers for their license and registration. They also asked if any drugs were in the car.Most drivers said they had no drugs and drove off. Those drivers usually said they didn't mind the checkpoint."It's OK with me," said driver Paul Holcolmb. "Anything that helps."A few people trying to escape punishment threw small bags of pot out the car window, an act that the police noticed. Those drivers were the most likely to be detained longer and fined.One man who threw a bag of marijuana out the window insisted it wasn't his."I got screwed," he said. "Somebody left something in my car. That's nothing they're going to believe. I wouldn't if I were them."State Police received the federal drug checkpoint grant from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program under the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Police would not reveal the grant's amount.Eleven counties in West Virginia are involved: Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Gilmer, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, McDowell, Mingo and Wayne.Those counties are part of a broader region that also includes areas of Tennessee and Kentucky. Federal drug policy officials termed the region the Marijuana Belt because of the amount of pot grown there.The American Civil Liberties Union considers checkpoints to be "an affront to civil liberties," but acknowledges that they're legal as long as police don't stop and search people randomly."They ought to be able to tell you why you've been stopped," said Hillary Chiz, the director of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. "They've got to say what their method is." Chiz said she doubts any real need for the drug stops exists."This is a way to prove they're doing something useful with the drug money," she said.State Police Lt. C.E. Berlin said police seized 10 pounds of marijuana from a car in Wayne County and 5 pounds from a car in Cabell County during two checkpoints this summer."We're waiting for that one big pop every time," Berlin said. "If you transport drugs, we'll take the drugs, we'll take you and we'll take everything you bought with the drug money." Tuesday September 28, 1999; 01:00 PMİ Copyright 1999 Charleston Daily MailAmerican Civil Liberties Union Deborah Angel
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Comment #1 posted by Doc-Hawk on September 29, 1999 at 18:58:47 PT:
Doin' it for years here in NC
They have been doing it for years here in NC - with a twist. First they put up signs along the interstate with "Drug Checkpoint Ahead" on them.....just before an exit that is obscured by a curve in the road. Anyone who takes the exit is in for a surprise. The checkpoint is at the top of the exit.
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