May 21st 2010 By Tom O'Keefe
In Asylum's eternal quest to bring our readers the straight dope, we connected with legal expert and funny guy Tom O'Keefe to answer your burning legal questions. If you have a question for him, drop it in the comments.
After a long night of drinking, a buddy and I spotted a plastic baggie containing what looked to be drugs on the street corner. I thought we should throw them out in the garbage to prevent any kids from getting their hands on them, but my buddy said we should just leave them or we could get pinched. I was too drunk to argue, so we left them. Was he right?
While your intention to remove the drugs from the pathway of wayward children was noble, your buddy was not entirely wrong. He should, however, be summarily chastised for using the term "pinched," unless he is in the Mafia.
Here's the problem with your "throw the drugs out" idea: In order to do so you would have to pick the drugs up, unless you've mastered telekinesis. Once you place your helpful little hands on that bag you have asserted sufficient control to place them in your "possession" under the law.
That's right, drug possession.
If life were a sitcom, you'd pick up the bag of drugs and just before you could dump them in the trash can two cops would show up: "I know this looks weird officers but I was only going to throw these out!" "Sure you were son, sure you were." Your buddy would chime in with his lame Desi Arnaz impression: "Lucy, you got some 'splaining to do," there'd be about five seconds of canned laughter, they'd slap on the handcuffs, and we'd cut to commercial.
I understand that this is not a very positive, shiny-happy-person view of the world, but I'm a former attorney -- what did you expect? It's realistic.
But I'd like to offer some common-sense alternatives to turning the blind eye, because your impulse to keep kids from harm is a good one. Your best bet is to call the sanitation department, ANONYMOUSLY, from a pay phone and report the location of the illegal drugs.
The sanitation department may ask you to examine the bag to be more specific. Do not examine the bag, DO NOT TOUCH THE BAG, do not go near the bag. Do not give them any information about you. At all.
As my optimistic defense-attorney friend likes to say, "Cops are in the 'busting you" business, not in the 'collecting drugs without making a bust' business."
Tom's advice is for entertainment purposes only. If you need actual legal advice, consult with a lawyer.