What Happens When The Police Get Your Drug Dealer's Mobile Phone?

Studies indicate that U.S. residents are a little lax about their mobile phones—they lose about 1 a year and about 34% of users don't even bother to take any security precautions at all to protect the information on those phones. That can end up opening the door to some trouble for both the owners of those phones and their contacts—especially if the owner happens to be dealing drugs. If you occasionally indulge in illicit drugs (including marijuana), this is some information that you need to know about what can happen when your dealer's phone falls into police possession.

The police will go through the phone looking for buyers.

One way or the other, the police will go through your dealer's cell phone records. While the laws regarding technological devices like mobile phones are still developing, they generally support the view that the police can rifle through mobile phones at will.

It isn't actually that hard for the police to get a dealer's permission to go through the phone—they may offer the dealer a plea bargain if he or she cooperates with investigators who are eager to make more drug busts by pursuing both high-level drug suppliers and product end-users (like you).

They are just as interested in arresting buyers as they are sellers and providers.

You can probably easily see why the police would be interested in getting more information and evidence against drug suppliers, but do they really pursue the average user? Absolutely. Even though cultural attitudes have changed enough to allow for legalization of marijuana in some states, the police still have a huge financial incentive to arrest and prosecute people for even minor drug crimes, like the intent to purchase. The federal government's "War on Drugs" provides grants for police precincts that keep their drug arrests high—and the police are willing to oblige in order to get the much-needed funds. Keep in mind that 88% of all drug arrests are just for simple possession.

It's very easy to make the situation worse.

If the police bust your dealer, they will likely already have you in their sights through the information found on his or her phone. They can also subpoena text records from the phone company, so even messages that have long been erased can come back to haunt you if they contain explicit information about drug buys.

You also run the risk that you may end up trying to contact your dealer after his or her phone lands in police custody. As one Ohio police department noted on its Facebook page after a busy drug dealer's clients wouldn't stop texting and calling a confiscated phone, the police "will come to you" eventually.

In addition, the police can also use your dealer's phone to lie to you. And, yes, it's entirely legal. If you text your dealer asking about a possible purchase, the police are free to text back, posing as your dealer. They can arrange to meet you for the transaction—at which point, you'll be arrested, probably for an attempt to possess whatever drug you were intending to purchase.

Clearly, the best way to avoid a drug charge is to not use illicit drugs in the first place. However, if you aren't willing to forgo that form of recreation, keep in mind that communicating with your dealer by text could easily come back to haunt you if his or her phone falls into the wrong hands. If that happens, make an appointment with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss ways to mitigate the damage to your life. It may be possible for you to also work out some form of plea deal for a lesser charge in exchange for more information or your agreement to participate in a drug rehabilitation program.

For more information, contact a local firm like Begley Carlin & Mandio LLP.