PHOTOS: Report of an Overdose by the Wilder Dam leads Lebanon Police to search Jeep
LEBANON - An ambulance crew and a large contingent of police rushed to a pull-off overlooking the Wilder Dam just before noon Tuesday after a concerned motorist noticed what appeared to be an unconscious woman sitting in the driver's seat of a Jeep that was parked there.
Fearing they might be dealing with a heroin overdose, first responders roused the woman, a western Vermont resident who appeared to be in her mid-20s, who insisted she was merely a "deep sleeper" despite what police said appeared to them to be several indicators of drug use visible around the cabin of her vehicle.
After EMTs determined that she was okay, the woman and the police began a protracted conversation about what might be in her vehicle with police at one point seizing it and calling a tow truck before both sides agreed to have officers conduct a "consent search" of the interior.
Lebanon Police Lt. Rick Smolenski explained that the situation was somewhat convoluted because of "Good Samaritan" laws and policies, which are meant to encourage people to immediately call 911 to report suspected overdoses so that rapid medical intervention can take place.
In a "Good Samaritan" situation police essentially overlook the fact that drugs are present because they do not want drug users and their friends hesitating to summon help because of concerns about whether they will be bringing a criminal investigation down upon their heads by doing so.
Lt. Smolenski explained to the woman involved in Tuesday's incident that she was not going to be arrested regardless of what police found in her car (another officer at the scene recalled that in recent months he had foregone an arrest in a similar situation even after locating 200 bags of heroin at the time) but he said police were not going to allow her to take any drugs that might be in the vehicle with her when she left, despite her insistence that their concerns were unfounded.
Eventually officers went through the car and removed a small amount of marijuana along with some spoons, containers and a set of digital scales before the woman was allowed to take her Jeep and continue on her way.
Lebanon Police Officer Steven Payne repeatedly explained the options police had to seize and search the vehicle
The woman, who told police she was heading to her job in Holyoke, Massachusetts, eventually signed a written consent form in order to avoid having her car seized and towed which would have forced police to wait until a judge could consider whether to issue a search warrant for it
Officers Payne and Willie Harden (right) went through the car's interior item-by-item
Payne removed what police suspected was a small amount of marijuana and some drug paraphernalia
After the search was complete, Lt. Smolenski (yellow shirt) told the woman she was free to leave after giving her some advice on how to avoid finding herself in a similar circumstance in the future
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