Search and seizure in the age of text messaging



While searching an apartment off of L.K. Wood in Arcata in January of this year, special agents from the Humboldt County Drug Task Force discovered a cell phone. As the agents searched the phone for contacts, a text message came in from an Ohio-area phone number. The following messages detail the conversation once the agents replied to the text message — using the cell phone of the person listed on the search warrant being executed.

“Yo bro I need ur address again trying to get that out”

Minutes later, a second message arrived:

“Hey I need that or im not goin to make express time bro.”

The agents replied, stating that the address was 736 F Street Arcata CA, 95521 — the address for the Arcata Police Department. They also sent a request for a tracking number on the package. They received the following message:

“Who did u send that too.”

The agents responded:

“u asked for an address to send it too I’m changing things up to keep the heat off my house.”

Another message came in:

“U can get that out tom?”

Agents responded:

“Shud be able to if all goes well confirm what you getting.”

Several minutes later, they got back:

“two misconcep.”

along with a tracking number for the package. They then received a final message:

“I put money in there so look in the fed ex envelope befor you throw it away its one twenty in twenties.”

The next day, an envelope arrived at the Arcata Police Department. It matched the tracking number. The Humboldt County Drug Task Force secured the envelope in their evidence room, which gave them the time they needed to get a search warrant from the courthouse. Inside, they found $120 along with a cashier’s check for $6,000.

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