Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cell Phone Is Not (Always) A Criminal Tool

An Ohio court has affirmed that a cell phone, by itself, is not considered a criminal tool – even when possessed by a drug dealer.

The case is State v. Brooks.

The defendant was charged with various drug offenses, including trafficking.  During a traffic stop, the police found “a ‘little baggie of marijuana,’ two cell phones, and $24 in [the defendant’s] left coat pocket.”  Inside his car, the police found 12 individual smaller bags containing single pieces of crack cocaine, all packaged in a larger plastic bag.

The court reversed a conviction on the charge that the cell phone was a “criminal tool” used to support drug trafficking.  The court, citing another recent opionion, said:  “The ubiquitousness of cell phones is such that the mere possession of a cell phone is not ipso facto proof that it was used in drug trafficking.”   

In the future, the prosecution will probably have to introduce cell phone records or text messages that appear to support drug transactions using the phone.

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