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Build a Secret Compartment, Go To Jail 1111

KindMind writes "Alfred Anaya was a custom stereo installer who branched out to making secret compartments for valuables, who the DEA sent to prison as a co-conspirator when a drug dealer used his creation to smuggle drugs. But Wired points out the bigger question: 'The challenge for anyone who creates technology is to guess when they should turn their back on paying customers. Take a manufacturer of robot kits for hobbyists. If someone uses those robots to patrol a smuggling route or help protect a meth lab, how will prosecutors determine whether the company acted criminally?'"
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Build a Secret Compartment, Go To Jail

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  • Re:Gun Makers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:42AM (#43336479) Homepage Journal

    False equivalency. *Total* false equivalency.

    There is a big difference between prosecuting a make of a Claw Hammer because it was used in a murder and prosecuting a make of a gun. A gun is for killing or maiming people and is not built for killing people. A claw hammer is built for driving nails and not built for killing people.

    I don't think gun makers should be prosecuted either as I think the important thing is the killer's intent.

    This case is even worse than the gun case, though. If a safe is bought and used to hide someone's stash does that make the safe maker liable? I would say hell no. I would say the case of secret compartments is more dubious, but there are tons of things it could be used legally for and I don't think the manufacturer of that hiding place has anything to do with the issue.

  • Re:Wrong lesson... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:45AM (#43336517)

    This is exactly what happened.
    He was told to be a snitch and when he refused they punished him.

  • Absurd Law (Score:4, Interesting)

    by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:47AM (#43336537)

    I myself once machined and built a small safe designed to hide in a vehicle as I frequently transported gold at the time. Unless there was proof that this guy was trying to do something illegal it sounds absolutely insane that he would be punished. The area that I traveled through was known to be quite dangerous and window smashing and grabbing at valuables was common. Matter of fact many gun owners need some sort of safe in their vehicles as there is a plague of people leaving guns under the car seats or between the seats or sometimes just under a newspaper on the seat which is dangerous in many ways including stopping to get gasoline or a cup of coffee. Criminals often get their guns by feeling around under car seats. Friday and Saturday nights are usually the good nights for that nonsense as people get drunk and leave their cars wide open with guns, wallets and all kinds of things in easy reach. Usually the only way these thieves get caught is by accident.

  • by Zemran ( 3101 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:49AM (#43336563) Homepage Journal

    but he had not seen any drugs, only money. Should we legalise money? I think that the US has the craziest legal system in the world. The country that introduced the concept that carrying money to another country is a crime (called money laundering), given that I work in various countries for good money I want to be allowed to carry my legally earned money home with me but if I carry more than a trivial amount I am labelled a criminal...

    It is time that money was legalised.

  • Re:Gun Makers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:53AM (#43336591)

    Since when is money an illegal good?

    He knew they were moving large amount of money. That is it.

    Right now I have a couple grand in my wallet, am I suddenly some sort of criminal?

    My brother repaid a loan that I made him. I will either deposit this money or put it in my safe. If I put it in my safe am I suddenly some sort of drug lord?

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:54AM (#43336607)

    The people I know that do drugs have jobs and money. Drugs aren't cheap. I bet the majority of drug use is of that type. Friday-Sunday and at parties.

    I have seen crackheads and meth addicts, but these seem like more the outlier than the occasional toker or party coke user.

  • Re:Gun Makers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vlpronj ( 1345627 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:26AM (#43336917)
    There is what's right, and then there's what's true. The accounting saying you should or shouldn't have $800k is how they determine if it's their business. It is right that the money you have is yours, and yours to do anything legal with (and illegal, if you accept those consequences). It is true that you cannot simply walk into most U.S. banks, auto dealers, etc, plop down $10k or more, and have a normal transaction. In fact, making multiple /perfectly legal/ transactions, totalling $10k or more in a short span of time, can get you arrested for evading the laws covering transactions over $10k, because by making transaction below what the law sets as a limit, you are, in the eyes of the law, /evading/ the limit. And that's... not right.
  • by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:29AM (#43336951) Homepage

    Why would meth use come in so high?

    Meth is rather addictive. And meth use correlates very strongly with availability. We don't know what happens with much higher availability.

    How about this scenario.... price of drugs comes down, people don't need to buy pure meth anymore, addicts can afford to not inject it.... other, less potent drugs (which have been pushed off the market) re-enter, and many of the people attracted to stims.... switch to those.

    Entirely possible. That's what happened with the reintroduction of beer and wine after prohibition. Whisky use fell not increased. That's why I favor regulation to try and make scenarios like that play out.

    I doubt it though with meth, people like the very high levels of the drug in the brain. The more they are addicted the higher the level they want, the more they take the more addicted. There is no natural stopping mechanism like there is for alcohol.

    Heroin? Why? When opium is available, and there is no pressure on dealers to make the highest profit off the lowest volume, do you really think heroin addicts wouldn't turn to opium in droves? Wouldn't pick safer, less potent drugs and forms of drugs?

    Quite possibly. Moreover pharmaceutical heroin is far safer than the street variety. Addictive yes, but the major side effect of regulated use is constipation. Heroin is a terrific candidate for legalization and regulation. Meth and less sure of.


    As an aside you mentioned alcohol. Prior to prohibition the average american consumed 8 gallons of ethanol per year. After the repeal that number became 1.5 gallons. America's lasting legacy of low alcohol use is a result of the changes in behavior brought about by prohibition. The history of alcohol is a mixed bag.

  • Re:War on drugs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:36AM (#43337025) Homepage

    I tend to have mixed feelings on the topic.

    1. The "war on drugs" has had a certain preventative effect on my life. I knew it was wrong. It was harder to get. I still had tried MJ but I was a teenager -- it's what we do. Didn't do much for me other than make me cough and smell bad. My hate/fear of needles prevented me from trying anything more serious... and I probably would have tried acid if the opportunity ever came about, but it didn't.

    But I am an individual and I am not all that "typical" in the way I think, reason or behave.

    2. The "war on drugs" has created additional organized crime and created additional demand for weapons and is the cause of loss of life not only for those directly involved in the trade, but for many, many innocents as well. It has undoubtedly derailed the lives of many who feel the mainstream life style of working for a living and being a good consumer is not good enough for them.

    3. I hold the food industry responsible for their selection of ingredients which has led to epidemic rates of diabetes and obesity in the USA. People are not given options or opportunity to buy healthy foods at competitive prices while the most commonly (ab)used ingredients are subsidized by the government. The selection of these diabetes/obesity causing ingredients should be regulated and restricted as they are in other nations because restricting them show positive results in health which lowers healthcare costs and all of that. So making bad ingredients harder to get would likely result in many positive changes.

    4. But if you transfer that line of thinking to drugs, we now have a kind of argument in favor of the war on drugs. There are some differences, of course. No one is likely to take up arms in order to trade in HFCS drinks or foods laced with high carbohydrate cereal fillers. But perhaps it just says the war on drugs, (the prohibition) simply goes too far while regulation would be good enough.

    5. People have a problem with not knowing the difference between "legal" and "good." For some reason, people tend to believe if it's allowed, it's good. "Legal == right." So by making something "legal" it is naturally feared that the use and abuse of drugs would go up. It wouldn't affect me, but I am not typical. But on the other hand, what will the math say? More people getting high and dying from overdoses -- will it be higher or lower than the death tolls now. And if drugs are legalized and regulated, the associated "support" criminal activity will unquestionably lose support so there will be less gun violence, less gang activity and all of that. There will still be junkies burglarizing and robbing people but that's usually not an organized criminal effort.

  • Re:Gun Makers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:09AM (#43337451)

    Cars are made for killing people too, based on traffic death statistics.

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:09AM (#43337455) Journal

    I would argue that it was evidence that something suspicious was going on... not remotely illegal, unless there is an actual law prohibiting the possession of such large amounts of cash.

    I know that ideally, a person should never be stopped from doing what they were normally doing just because it looks suspicious to somebody else, even though it's perfectly legal, but being members of a social community, we have at least some obligation to try to consider how things that we are doing could appear to other people, because once we realize how things might look to others, we may realize that we might need to change the way we are doing things.

    I remember when I was in college, it was in '02 to give the situation a bit of context, and one of the courses I was taking was a digital electronics course, where part of the course involved building a working digital clock using elementary logic gates and chips only. Most people only worked on this in the electronics lab, but I had bought my own IC's so that I could work on it at home as well. During one of my break periods during the day, I was working on my clock in a relatively quiet hallway of one of the campus buildings... I was doing an experiment with trying to multiplex the power for the LED's, and so there were some neat flashing lights and numbers, when suddenly a campus security guard told me to step away from what I was working on and come with him. I had to go to the campus security office and was questioned by a couple of the security guards there. He initially wasn't going to let me even pack up and bring my electronics stuff with me, but I think upon noticing the panicked look I might have had on my face when he suggested that I leave this expensive stuff there, he relented. In the office, they then asked me some questions about what I was doing there and what I was building, and I replied completely truthfully. One of the security guards said that what I was talking about sounded reasonable, since they knew the professor I had for the course in question and had heard about the course having a clock-building challenge which apparently had been going on there for many years They needed confirmation from the professor, however... and I had to wait for the professor to come down from his office, and see me... confirm that he knew me and that I was genuinely in his class. I was then free to go, and later that evening, in his lecture, he bemusedly related a story to the class about how one of his students got hauled into the security office for apparently building a bomb He suggested that we only work on the project either at home, or else in the lab, telling us that the lab aide could be reached throughout the day anyways, and would unlock the lab for anyone in the course and allow them to work during the day even when it wasn't scheduled lab time.

    The experience taught me something about doing things that look suspicious that I hadn't previously considered, even if they are actually entirely innocent, as I was, and being mindful of that fact gives a person a much better state of preparedness for the possible consequences, perhaps even at some point deciding "no, I won't do that", or maybe just changing the circumstances so that it won't look so suspicious in the first place.

  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:28AM (#43337701)

    My school had a few real meth heads when I was in high school. The harm that regular meth did was demonstrable in a way that made DARE completely unnecessary. A lot of students actually avoided meth because they saw the harm it did (damaged intelligence, rotting teeth, misc health issues, etc.)

    Just calling the kid(s) on stage at a pep rally for 5 minutes and saying "kids, this is what regular meth use does. This is why we don't want you to use meth. Now Johnny, Susy, etc. please be seated." would stop 95% of kids from ever doing meth. It's not like a STD or something like that it's so in-your-face and repeatable that only morons (even by teen standards) would think it doesn't apply to them.

  • Re:Odd arrangements (Score:4, Interesting)

    by artfulshrapnel ( 1893096 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:31AM (#43337737)

    The issue here is that the builder was obviously aware that his tools were being used for illegal activity but continued to produce them for those same clients. His knowledge was demonstrated by his freakout about the massive piles of cash and demand to have them removed, and the fact that he knew his customers were crossing borders with his secret compartments. (They were calling from places like Tijuana asking for repairs)

    "I don't know what this is being used for" is a legit argument when there's a reasonable expectation that the product is not being used for illegal activity (such as in the stated case of building robots), but at a certain point it crosses the threshold where any reasonable explanation would point to illegal use. At that point the person making the product is arguably liable, since any reasonable person should understand what their product is being used for.

    In the example of a robot, just making a robot that can patrol an area wouldn't cross that threshold. If, however, the robot was commissioned with the ability to detect police badges, interpret police scanner data, and incinerate packages if police were detected en-route? That would cross the threshold of "Well what the fuck did you THINK they were gonna use it for?"

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @11:35AM (#43337789)

    "Prohibition has been fairly successful most times it has been used in drastically reducing usage."

    Except in the United States.

    Prohibition of alcohol actually saw per-capita alcohol consumption go UP by a significant amount.

    Prohibition of other drugs in the United States has demonstrably not decreased demand or consumption.

    I am curious about where it has been "fairly successful". Certainly not here.

  • by Dishevel ( 1105119 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @12:02PM (#43338163)

    Parent must be a public union employee.
    Private Unions can be good or bad. If they get too bad they no longer have a job. (Ask the Bakers at Hostess)
    Public Unions ARE BAD! In private unions there is management vs union. Balance can be struck.
    In Public Employee Unions there can be no balance as the management (Politicians) are put into office with the union funds.
    Why people can not see this as a horrible situation that can never work out well I will never understand.

  • by wagnerrp ( 1305589 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:22PM (#43339347)
    To be fair, many of the problems associated with heavy methamphetamine usage are not actually caused by methamphetamine. It's caused by the fact that methamphetamine is refined using some particularly nasty chemicals, and the poor quality laboratory equipment and conditions available to basement/garage/trunk/RV meth cookers is insufficient to produce a clean product. It's no different to how the high methanol content in cheaply produced moonshine has been known to cause blindness. Legalization, combined with government regulation, would go a long way towards mitigating these ill effects.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling