Dallas Cowboys’ Daniel Ross DWI Arrest Sheds Light on Police Subjectivity

If you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan, chances are you’ve at least heard that Daniel Ross, a defensive tackle for the team recently got arrested for possession of marijuana and unlawful carrying of a weapon. The arrest occurred during a relatively routine stop for violating a music/noise Ordinance 97¬04¬13, sec. 1, adopted 4/15/97 while driving his car in Frisco, TX.

You can view the video of his arrest here.
Mr. Ross was “coasting” down a street when officers pulled him over claiming that the rap music he was playing in his car was “too loud.” After pulling over Mr. Ross, the police officers claimed to smell marijuana, they got permission from Mr. Ross to search his vehicle and then they discovered that he was in possession of a firearm.

It Started as a Traffic Stop, Then…

What started off as a routine stop for loud music ended with multiple charges. When the officers approached the car, Mr. Ross rolled down his window to speak to the officer (as most law-abiding citizens would do) then the officer claims that his car smells of “marijuana.” Mr. Ross was going to receive a ticket for the violating the music ordinance but was arrested for possession of an illegal substance.

The Opinion Crime

This is an arrest that happened because the arresting officers had the “opinion” that the music was too loud. They did not substantiate this with any measurement device proving that it was “too loud”; they only “thought” that it was and felt that they should pull Mr. Ross over. They also did not articulate whether they were 30 feet or greater from the vehicle when they heard the music. In their “opinion,” the music was “loud” which some officers may agree with that assessment while others would disagree.

Bias Thoughts

Since Mr. Ross is African-American playing rap music, we have to wonder if the music were country, rock or opera, would the arrest have been subjectively different? Maybe the officers would have found a different genre of music to be enjoyable or not disturbing and therefore would not have deemed that it interfered with public peace and comfort.

20/20 Hindsight

Mr. Ross did the right thing in cooperating with police by exiting his vehicle as requested, but there are a few things that he did to voluntarily sacrifice his rights and make it easier for officers to find probable cause to arrest him. There are also things that he could have done to avoid trouble in the first place:

  1. Marijuana is illegal in Texas regardless of the amount, so he should have left it at home. Saying that you didn’t know it was there does not keep the officer from arresting you (ignorance is no excuse). However, the labs are currently unable to determine the amount of THC in pot compared to hemp (which is legal up to 3% THC) so a good lawyer can assist with this process in court.
  2. Instead of rolling his car window all the way down, he should have cracked it just enough to communicate clearly with the officers.
  3. Upon exiting the vehicle, Mr. Ross should have closed the door behind him to prevent officers from smelling marijuana. He has a right to do that.
  4. He should not have consented to the search of the vehicle. Understanding that he was trying to be cooperative, he should have asked the officer to obtain a warrant that would have required probable cause.
  5. He should NEVER put his hands in his pockets while talking with officers. It is important for officer safety and his own that his hands are kept where the officers can see them.
  6. Once he was handcuffed and being detained, he should have stopped talking and engaging with the officers (as is his right). Instead, Mr. Ross kept explaining why he had a gun, the particular bullets, who he had been with or where, when. All of these details were unnecessary and may contribute to him incriminating himself. It is best to say nothing than say too much.
  7. He should have requested that his lawyer be present before answering any additional questions.
  8. He tried to argue his case by the roadside with the officers. This is your lawyer’s job that he or she will do when the time comes. That time is not while you’re being arrested.
    A knowledgeable lawyer could argue the unreasonableness of the stop and ask a court to suppress any evidence thereafter including the marijuana so that the gun charge can be dismissed. Once the charge is dismissed, Ross can re-apply to have his license to carry reinstated (if he had one) and have the arrest for this case expunged from his record.