Man Spent 82 Days in Jail For Returning Home to the U.S. With a Jar of Honey

It’s never a good idea to take a lot of cash with you through the airport. The government can take the cash by saying your bag smells like pot (or saying that a dog thinks it smells like pot). No charges need every be filed. This isn’t an isolated experience.

Maybe your Uber driver’s trunk smelled like pot and your bag was closed up inside for half an hour.

In fact flying Chicago – Los Angeles is enough of a reason for the government to suspect you of being a drug dealer and take whatever money you may be carrying.

But what if the government doesn’t take your cash, and takes your jar of honey instead? A man recently spent 82 days in jail because he returned home to the U.S., bringing a jar of honey with him from Jamaica. The government decided it was meth even though it wasn’t.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers who searched Haughton’s bag upon his arrival to Baltimore/Washington International Airport said the honey he was carrying tested positive for drugs.

“They said I was charged with methamphetamine, so I said, ‘what is methamphetamine?'” Haughton told CNN affiliate WJLA.

Charging documents say the 46-year-old man told officers he had purchased the honey on the side of a road in Jamaica, but officers suspected it was liquid meth.


Copyright: andreyuu / 123RF Stock Photo

A drug-sniffing dog ‘alarmed’ (which really means that the dog’s handler decided the dog noticed something). Then a ‘preliminary test’ determined the honey was drugs “according to a probable cause statement.”

Charges were eventually dropped after a lab test determined there was no drugs, just honey. In the interim the man – who has six children – lost his job, his insurance, and his good credit score.

According to prosecutors, “there was no error made in this case” and the system worked the way it was supposed to — because after 82 days the man was released. The man was offered his honey back. He says he doesn’t want it.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. It is terrible that there are no repercussions for officers who literally tear apart someone’s life only to eventually shrug and say “we decided you aren’t a criminal after all.”

  2. “The Anne Arundel County Prosecutor’s Office said Haughton faced a no-bond house arrest on the state charges, but an ICE detainer prevented him from being released earlier.

    Terry Morris, Haughton’s attorney, also said he was told there was an ICE detainer. Haughton also told the affiliate that upon his release he was told ICE had a hold on him.

    A spokeswoman with ICE told CNN there was no detainer issued for Haughton and referred questions to US Customs and Border Protection. When contacted by CNN, CBP declined to comment on the record.”

    Well this should make winning a lawsuit a slam dunk…hope he goes big on the damages….

  3. This is a great example of Due Process, “there was no error made in this case” and the system worked the way it was supposed to.

    If process was follower, law looks at it as everything was done correctly and correct outcome have been received(even if its wrong).

  4. Many years ago (early ’90s I think), I was returning from travels across the Middle East to the US. I landed at CVG (Cincy), via a flight from Paris. My wife and I had traveled together through Paris, where she had to stay for an additional two days to attend a conference. Being a good husband, I told her to just keep a carryon, while I took her check-in with me. This was in the wild days when two check-in bags were free.

    Anyway, when I got to customs, the officer asked me where I’d been and whether I had any items to declare. I told him where I’d been – Muscat, Kuwait City, Dubai, Paris – he then got suspicious and asked me to open my suitcases. I opened both. Noticing female attire in one, he asked me to go through secondary screening. There, I was grilled about my trip and asked why I was carrying womens clothes. I explained that I was bringing my wife’s laundry home. They wouldn’t have any of it. I was held for 12 hours, then released without a word as to what led to me being detained. I asked about my bags, and they said that the bags had been ‘arrested’ and I no longer had access to them. I was pissed off, but happy to be out of the holding pen.

    At home, I called my attorney friend to see what could be done. He asked me if there was anything valuable in the bags. There wasn’t. His advice was to just let it go.

    The upside was my wife got to shop for a whole new wardrobe!

  5. Sadly, this happens every day to poor people all across America. Cop doesn’t like you? you look at him/her wrong, make a comment they don’t like…they arrest you and charge you with some bogus charge. Sure, they drop them later on if you can afford a lawyer…if you can’t your public defender tells you to make a deal even if you aren’t guilty because you will get less time or time served so a TON of innocent people plead guilty every year and in turn, get a record that makes them even more vulnerable to future arrests and poverty.
    I used to work at Child support enforcement in FL, they treat non-custodial parents like garbage and will pursue them to the ends of the earth to collect money. If they prove that it isn’t their child via dna tests, they tell the ncp that the money they paid has to be recovered in civil court and offer no assistance, tough luck. It is an absolute shame and it happens all the time, a woman claims a man in the father of her child and can put them through hell just on her word, and when it is proven she lied knowingly to the court….no big deal, no charges, no problem.
    The legal system in this country is no longer innocent until proven guilty, it is you are guilty, detained, harassed, have your life wrecked and we don’t care if you’re innocent. Same goes for the property seizures, eminent domain property thefts by big corporations.
    There but for the grace of God go I we should all be saying because IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU!

  6. It’s increasingly obvious that we live in a country with different rules for different people. If the person in this instance were a millionaire, with good access to professional legal counsel, he’d have been released the same day.

    But because this person relied on the system working the way we’re told it does, he lost everything but his life.

    Equal protection my a**.

  7. @Mallthus. I beg to disagree. Millionaire can get caught up in the machinery of the law the same as normal people.

    For example, Martha Stewart prosecuted because Comey decided he wanted to make an example of her to feather up his cap. She was not convicted of insider trading. Instead they got her on false statements and associate obstructions of justice. In other words, a perjury trap. They talk to you 5 times, if you are inconsistent (memories are imperfect), then they accuse you of perjury. She was sentenced to five months in a federal correctional facility, and a two-year period of supervised release, with five months of electronic monitoring. Google it.

  8. @Other Just Saying

    > Martha Stewart prosecuted because Comey decided he wanted to make an example of her

    Great point! Just imagine how much jail time she would have done if she’d made false statements to federal investigators!

  9. FYI: Definitions related to my comment about Martha Stewart.

    According to Wikipedia: “Perjury trap. A perjury trap is a form of prosecutorial misconduct in which a prosecutor calls a witness to testify, typically before a grand jury, with the intent of coercing the witness into perjury (intentional deceit under oath). Most often a perjury trap is employed because the prosecutor is unable to prosecute the defendant on other charges.”

    Misused of Obstruction of Justice. Just look up how 28,000 innocent people who lost their jobs when Andrew Weissmann (under Bush) indicted Arthur Anderson for Obstruction of Justice using creative theories of such Obstruction. Routine shredding of documents was considered Obstruction of Justice. The case was reversed unanimously by the Supreme Court.

  10. Hire a high priced attorney who works on winning not retainer, and sue the government all the way to SCOTUS if necessary. Attorney fees added to damages/wages lost, and make it a whopper claim to teach these idiots a lesson.

  11. @Other Just Saying:
    Martha Stewart was originally represented by a civil attorney and agreed to speak with FBI.
    That’s two mistakes.
    Several thousand people per year are prosecuted for lying to a federal officer.

  12. @Tom: I’m not sure what your knowledge of law happens to be, but the cost of proceeding this way is outrageous and the odds of the Supremes granting cert are tiny.

    @onyxi: It’s not wrongful imprisonment. “Justice” has nothing to do with “law.” Justice is a matter of opinion.

    Forget about that blindfolded statue holding scales. Her arms got tired years ago and she’s peeking beneath the blindfold.

  13. I wish we would report more of this. Young man I knew was arrested /jailed (false accusation) for several weeks until they decided the whole thing was false. In the meantime, he lost his job, his apartment, and his good reputation ( not to mention the items confiscated when he was booked).

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