Howard County police who went to an Elkridge home to arrest a teen-ager on drug charges ended up booking his parents as well.
"It is not a common situation, that you go out with a warrant for a particular person and find that the family is also involved," said police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn.
Christian Watts, 40, his wife, Catherine Ann Watts, 43, and their 18-year-old son, also named Christian, were charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, Llewellyn said. Both charges are misdemeanors; marijuana possession carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both.
The elder Christian Watts, a professional driver who said he had never been in trouble with the law as an adult, was still upset and confused last night by the incident.
"All they got was a couple of seeds and some empty bags," he said. "As far as I'm concerned this whole thing is a big waste of taxpayers' money."
Watts said he sometimes smokes marijuana to dull back pain from a pinched nerve.
He said he begged the officers to arrest only him; he said his wife does not smoke marijuana, and although they know his son does, "it's not like we condone it," he said. "We're not smoking pot with our kids."
The warrant for the younger Christian Watts had come after a 2 1/2 -month investigation by undercover officers with the department's street drug section, Llewellyn said. Detectives from the criminal investigation bureau also helped.
Watts said the investigating officers told him they had found some seeds and empty marijuana bags in the family's trash, which they had sent to a laboratory.
The officers suspected the teen-ager not only of using pot, but of selling it to people in his Elkridge neighborhood, Llewellyn said.
About 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, the police showed up at Watts' door on Beechfield, a street of neat residential houses off U.S. 1.
When they searched the house, they found their suspect at home, and with "trace" amounts of marijuana in the bottom of a bong, Llewellyn said. But the officers also discovered pot residue in a pipe in the bedroom of the elder Christian Watts.
However, the investigators could not confirm that anyone in the house was selling marijuana, or intended to, Llewellyn said.
Watts said he was completely surprised by the bust.
"This all came out of left field," he said. "I've always done exactly what society expected of me, I'm a respected member of my community, and they're treating my family like hardened criminals. They made us look bad in front of our neighbors."
Catherine Watts works as a learning assistant. Their son is registered to begin college classes in the fall.
Because the Wattses also have a 10-year-old son, the parents were taken into custody one at a time. On Tuesday night, the elder Christian Watts was arrested and held in jail overnight; the next day, his wife and their son turned themselves in.
Watts said he refused to tell police where he got the marijuana, and that he was kept in a cell, shackled, for 18 hours without food.
"The next day they processed my wife and son in two hours," he said. "I can understand why people turn against the system."
Llewellyn said all three cooperated with the police and were released on their own recognizance.
A date for the Wattses' arraignment has not been set.