Drug Dealing and Your Cellphone
To start this blog post off, you should not sell drugs. It is illegal. That being said, if you choose to ignore that bit of legal advice, there are certain things that are more likely to incriminate you, or that can be used as evidence against you.
Nope, I’m not talking about profanity or sexual content; I’m talking about explicit reference to drugs, quantity, or the exchange thereof. If your phone, or perhaps a customer’s phone, was being reviewed by the police, something that can be done upon an individual’s arrest, you could be easy prey. Openly talking about drugs, using their actual name or even street names, is something that will easily be identified by law enforcement officers. Examples of this might be using phrases such as “meeting Mary Jane, hollering at that white girl, riding the horse” are all phrases that would immediately trigger law enforcement’s attention.
Similarly, using phrases that don’t explicitly mention the drug but allude to quantity are also likely to raise flags. Examples of these might be ” bag, quad, half, zone, zip, teenth, bump, line, nug, bud, cap, tab, etc.” The police, especially police who specialize in drug investigations, are familiar with slang terms for drugs and their quantities. People will ask our office if they can not be convicted due to not saying actual terms such as cocaine, heroin, or marijuana, because the text messages only talk about blow, H, or smoke. The answer is that even referring to a drug as “that thing” can lead to a conviction for possession or distribution, naming things by their proper name is not needed.
The exchange of drugs is often the subjects of text messaging as well. Terms like “reup” are all too common across the pages of discovery. This can be the most damning area to discuss via the phone for several reasons. The first is that, unless an agreed upon price and amount is used every time and thus can be referred to by some code, there are usually things that need to be clarified. One thing is the amount, which was mentioned above. Another is price per unit, and the third can be a time or place. These three things provide almost all elements needed to prove a conspiracy charge, whether it be possession or distribution. In addition, this exchange will typically be of extra value because a supplier a rung up on the ladder is involved. This can be particularly of importance if the actual target is a higher level dealer, as it can lead to increased pressure to cooperate with law enforcement, and stricter sentences for failing to do so.
Distributing drugs via text messages is a bad idea in general. You are providing a written account of your transactions that you make. Intent, in the Wisconsin state statues, is defined as “the actor either has a purpose to do the thing or cause the result specified, or is aware that his or her conduct is practically certain to cause that result.” Thus, text messages saying that you will be getting a drug at a certain time, and/or, will be able to sell a drug to a certain person, or at a certain time, will provide the intent to distribute, and thus you could be charged with a crime, without actually having drugs or money in your possession. Nowadays, text messages also can have pictures attached to them, and just like the text messages, pictures of individuals with drugs, money, or weapons, can be evidence that is used against you in a criminal case. The good news, for right now, is that most cellphone carriers do not retain the content of text messages, or if they do, it is typically for less than seven days. This means that if you were to delete all of your text messages from your phone, the police would not be able to use those text messages against you. The problem is that those text messages exist in two separate places, on your phone and on the person whose phone you sent it to. If the police are able to obtain that individual’s phone, or that person is taken into custody and their phone is searched, those text messages may still be out there, and with them, you are exposed to criminal charges.
If you are going to distribute drugs, on any scale, and you use your phone in someway to do so, you must take every precaution. The discipline of not making direct statements, or of erasing content must be imposed. One single text message could be enough for severe criminal charges, which carry stiff and sever penalties. It is difficult to be a 100% on with anything: free throws, trivia, even remembering to always brush one’s teeth before bed, let alone making sure that you have an invisible electronic footprint. If you have questions about the tactics used to electronically track an individual or prove involvement in criminal activity, you should contact a criminal defense attorney. Knowing your exposure can help you limit your risk as well as know full well the gravity of your actions.