Staying connected to friends and family is easier than it has ever been with smartphones and social media. You can update people about what's happening in your life in real time, which is kind of amazing when you consider that just 30 years ago the general public barely had email access much less knew how to use it. Now we can text friends to make dinner plans while sitting at work. We post our dinner location to Facebook in case anyone else wants to join, then tease everyone else with pictures of the delicious meals we're biting into.
That's not all social media is being used for. Law enforcement is capitalizing on everyone's need to make our activities public, and they're getting good at it. If you knew you could be arrested because you posted something on your social media page intended for friends to see, would you still do it? Police departments all over the country are making drug charges stick and you didn't even realize that you're giving them the means to do it.
When trying to outsmart law enforcement backfires
Anyone who uses social media, and in particular, pokes around local groups, has at some point seen a post by a stranger that causes them to take a closer look at the profile of the person who made the off the cuff comment. Inevitably, some of those Facebook and Instagram users display tell-tale signs that they're involved in illegal drug activity. If this sounds like something you've done, be assured, your friends and the odd random stranger are not the only ones who have taken notice.
- Pictures of guns and/or cash spread out
- Pictures of marijuana or other drugs
- Videos advertising drug dealing windows in certain locations
- Using popular slang indicating drug dealing or drug use
- Advertisement of marijuana sales in legal use states to buyers in illegal use states
Law enforcement is turning the tables on anyone who will fall for it by creating fake social media pages to entrap both illegal sellers and buyers of marijuana. They're even going so far as to create fake back stories to make the pages look more credible. Once their target takes the bait, an arrest is made.
How drug arrests are being made using social media
Investigations often begin simply by searching social media sites for simple keywords like “marijuana” and reviewing posts that appear. One example of social media driven drug arrests includes a 30-year-old man in Columbia, South Carolina who was seen on Instagram holding a joint while making a vulgar gesture to the Richland County Sheriff's Department webpage. The Sheriff send the Drug Suppression Team undercover to buy pot from the man, and he was subsequently arrested and charged with distribution of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute.
These are serious charges. Possession is a misdemeanor crime, and if convicted he faces incarceration and up to $1,000 in fines. Intent is a felony crime, and if convicted he faces between 50 and 20 years in prison, and between $5,000 and $20,000 in fines.
Use of social media has become big business for law enforcement. The U.S. Department of Justice has even published a guide to teach law enforcement how to make the best use of this new crime fighting tool. If you're not careful, you may be among those on their next list of people to round up after handing them the evidence.
To seek out experienced, confident legal representation for a drug arrest in York, Lancaster, or Chester County, contact Holland Law, LLC. to schedule your consultation in either of Mr. Holland's offices, conveniently located in Fort Mill and Rock Hill, call 803-219-2630, or fill out the contact page to tell us your story.