You paranoid, bro?

I’ve never smoked weed (primarily because I’m a nervous loser). For me, the risk of getting in trouble outweighs the reward of getting high. I know a comical effect of smoking marijuana is paranoia, but some of us don’t need bud to freak out (can I say “bud” if I don’t smoke)?

When I imagine smoking weed, I can’t help but imagine getting caught. Here are a few of the weed-related scenarios that keep me up at night:

  1. My shitty downstairs neighbor smells weed and reports me, causing the police to raid my house.
  2. My drug dealer is an undercover cop.
  3. An emergency occurs and I’m too stoned to react.
  4. I pull a Christopher Moltisanti and sit on a Maltese.
  5. My drug dealer gets caught, and I go down because my number is listed on their phone.

If you also suffer from weed worries, I can offer you a bit of relief. I reached out to Jef Henninger, a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney to ask, “What would happen if my number was found in a drug dealer’s phone?”

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The first thing Henninger tells me is that police don’t prioritize investigating drug dealers’ phones. Drug dealers, he reminds me, get a lot of calls. Unless you’re buying from Pablo Escobar (you can’t—he died in 1993) or a similarly significant drug lord, it is unlikely authorities will spend any time digging through your dealer’s phone.

According to Henninger, TV does not accurately portray the way police handle drug busts. Most of the time, law enforcement doesn’t even ask dealers where they obtained their product.

“Police don’t usually cast a wide net unless that was the goal in the beginning. It’s one thing if they’re trying to take down a drug ring, but if it’s a common drug deal, they don’t typically try very hard to find out where it goes or where it came from.”

I wasn’t convinced. “So, what you’re saying,” I ask, “is the chances of police going through a casual dealer’s phone at all are pretty slim?”

“Slim to none,” he answers.

Let’s say police did dig through my dealer’s phone. What might cause them to investigate me?

There are some factors that could make my presence in a drug dealer’s phone appear suspicious. Henninger says the number of times I’ve called or the length of my calls might pique police interest. Heavy call volume could suggest that I’m actively involved in illicit activity, as opposed to a casual friend or someone from Craigslist looking to buy a love seat.

Can police look through our text history? Apparently not. A phone constitutes a container (like a purse, computer or car) and police would need my consent or a warrant to search it. There are some exceptions, of course—if there was an emergency or if police were engaged in “hot pursuit,” it’s possible evidence could be moved or destroyed before a warrant was issued. As a general rule, however, investigators need probable cause in order to search personal items. Unless the suspect is linked to a bigger crime, authorities probably won’t bother.

And lest you think you can avoid any potential texting pitfalls by utilizing code words, think again. Henninger says police know all the codes, so swapping “an eighth of bud” for “eight birthday balloons” can still be used against you.

Via Giphy/Pineapple Express

What do I do if police find my number in a drug dealer’s phone and ask to question me?

By this time, you probably feel like purchasing weed from a dealer is a fairly low-key crime. Not I — weed anxieties still firmly in place, I ask Henninger what I should do if police were to find me guilty by association and ask to question me.

“The best thing anyone should do any time they’re contacted by police is call a lawyer first,” he advises. “The vast majority of people are convicted by their own words.” Henninger tells me that as long as a client hasn’t confessed, the odds of winning a case are very high.

“Some people are just dumb enough to go in and say ‘Yeah, I bought drugs from this guy,’ or ‘Yeah, I supplied him with drugs.’ Thats how they really catch their convictions,” says Henninger.

What if I’m called upon to act as a witness against my dealer?

I pose this question to Henninger and I’m surprised when he responds with a chuckle. He tells me:

“Most drug cases never go to trial. They’re won and lost based on whether the police violated your constitutional rights.”

What he means is that if the police do an illegal search or if they have a search warrant that ends up getting thrown out, the case is over. Most drug cases that go to court involve a person who was caught red-handed. In these instances, the evidence is generally so strong, there’s no need for witnesses.

The major takeaway? Police give very few F’s about casual drug deals. I’m still crippled by drug neuroses, but if you’re a recreational drug user, rest easy in the knowledge that your text history isn’t going to bring you down.