Legality of Willie Nelson Pot Bust Questioned
December 6th, 2010 by Tad Nelson in Criminal Defense
Country-music legend Willie Nelson was arrested for drug possession at a Border Patrol checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, Texas, on November 26, 2010. His arrest for having 6 ounces of marijuana on his tour bus has criminal defense attorneys doubting the legality of the pot bust.
If convicted of the felony drug charges, 77-year-old Nelson faces a minimum sentence of 180 days in jail. The maximum sentence possible is two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If Nelson ends up in jail, Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West says he’ll “make him cook and clean” while wearing “the stripy uniforms just like the other ones do.”
However, some legal experts doubt that Nelson will actually face jail time, questioning the legality the marijuana discovery and Nelson’s subsequent arrest.
A Texas attorney experienced in handling drug charges says the search – which occurred 100 miles from the Texas border and 85 miles east of El Paso – should be contested in court proceedings. The attorney said that Border Patrol checkpoints are only intended to be checkpoints for illegal immigrants, and agents commonly overstep their authority by inspecting the vehicle of anyone they desire without proper, legal justification.
Nelson’s Sierra Blanca arrest is the latest of his multiple encounters with law enforcement for drug possession. In January 2010, six members of Nelson’s band and crew received citations in North Carolina for allegedly possessing marijuana and moonshine.
In 2006, Nelson and his tour manager pleaded guilty to having nearly 1.5 pounds of marijuana and 3 ounces of hallucinogenic mushrooms on his tour bus in Louisiana. Each was sentenced to six months of probation and ordered to pay a $1,024 fine.
In addition, Nelson was arrested in Texas in 1995 after he pulled off Interstate 35 to sleep in his car after an all-night poker game, according to the El Paso Times. Police saw a marijuana joint in the ashtray and Nelson told them there was also a small bag of marijuana on the floorboard.
The charges in that case were dropped after the legality of the police search and seizure was challenged. The judge ruled that the marijuana seized from Nelson’s car was inadmissible because police did not have probable cause to search the car or arrest Nelson. Only time will tell if Nelson similarly escapes trouble on the road again this time.