Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Arrested After Accidentally Texting Cops About Meth Delivery

A Louisiana man is facing criminal charges, likely due to technical difficulties related to text messaging. Namely, accidentally texting incriminating evidence directly to the police.

Last week, a sheriff's deputy received a text message from a wrong number offering to sell crystal meth. The deputy arranged a meet up with Dwayne Herbert, who arrived at the predetermined location carrying not just the drugs, but also two firearms. Herbert was promptly arrested, and now faces serious criminal charges for selling drugs and possession of firearms.

The "Reply-All" / Wrong Number Hall of Fame

Although criminals rarely make it that easy for law enforcement, stupid mistakes happen to criminals too. In 2012, a young man in Indiana sent a coded text offering drugs to a wrong number. The wrong number turned out to be the number of a local police officer who was up on the local code words for the drug being offered. The officer arranged to meet, and then arrested the young man.

However, the most jaw-dropping story about a drug dealer texting officers accidentally offering to sell them drugs comes from England. In 2012, a young man, was released on bail after being convicted of selling drugs. For some reason, the young man and one of the officers exchanged phone numbers after his release.

A couple months later, the officer received a text message from the young man, offering to sell drugs. Predictably, the young man was arrested again, and once in-custody admitted to sending that text accidentally to everyone in his address book.

Self-Incrimination via Text Message

While the Fifth Amendment protects an individual from being compelled to testify against themselves when a person accidentally texts police, or makes a voluntary admission, the protection does not cover those. There generally is no "excusable neglect" argument for accidental disclosures by criminals. Notably, the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination only applies to police interrogations and court testimony.

Cases like these are prime examples of when accidentally clicking "reply-all," or forwarding a message to everyone in your contact book, can have severe consequences.

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