Stories seem to hit the media every day over today’s technology. Global Positioning Systems, cellphones and other devices are commonplace in today’s world. Those kinds of devices often give rise to legal arguments in criminal cases in California, as well as in courts across the country. In January, this blog discussed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling holding that law enforcement must obtain a warrant to hide a GPS device on a suspect’s car under the U.S. Constitution.
Wiretapping has long required a warrant in our criminal justice system. But a recent story out of Santa Maria may raise new questions on the use of cellphones. Santa Maria Police claim that an officer received several errant text messages from someone looking to make some kind of drug deal, and the officer’s allegations led to a recent California drug crime sting.
The media does not report how the messages were sent to the cop–that is, it is unclear in news reports if the messages were sent to the narcotics suppression officer’s phone, some other phone or if the texts were sent to a random wrong number of a cellphone to which the officer had some kind of legal access.
Nonetheless, the officer apparently concluded that the messages implicated a potential drug deal and apparently responded to the texts, seeking to set up a sting. Law enforcement says that the officer set up a meeting to but roughly two grams of meth from the person allegedly sending the original texts.
Once the meeting was set up, the Santa Maria Police brought in the Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit to attend the alleged meeting. Deputies say a 39-year-old man showed up at the location of the meeting. Law enforcement claims the man had around two grams of meth in his possession.
Detectives claim that a second man arrived at the location of the alleged drug sting. Authorities claim that the second man is the first man’s drug supplier. Detectives say that they found roughly 7 grams of methamphetamine and accuse the second man of drug possession for sale.
Detectives apparently pulled out the second man’s cellphone and claim that it contained text messages that corroborate the drug deal.
Both men were arrested on drug charges, including possession for sales, transportation of a controlled substance and criminal conspiracy. Each man was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail Bail with bail set at $30,000, according to the Santa Maria Times.
Source: Santa Maria Times, “Errant text message lands suspected SM drug dealers in jail,” May 30, 2012