They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Whether you measure you favorite chemical indulgences in grams or ounces you need to take some basic cell phone safety precautions. First, a disclaimer, a warrant and a dedicated forensic technologist can find pretty much anything on your IOS or Android device (Blackberries are the most secure phones available, but who wants to use a grandpa phone with real buttons?). But, with the right settings/apps/common sense you may be able to get through most traffic stops and common police encounters without getting yourself or your friends in more trouble than the initial detention.
How does a law enforcement officer (let’s call him LEO) use cell phone data? The most common way is when you are arrested and the officer just picks the phone up and starts reading your texts to see who your dealer/connect/reup is. The officer may also answer your phone or send texts to try and generate some more offenses/arrests. Now the Supreme Court has held that cell phone data is protected and the police must have a warrant to search your phone, but Constitutional protections tend to find exceptions (we have a drug war to fight, and most judges are on the side of the Government), also most snitch deals are never seen in court and LEO may look at your phone anyway just to see who is in your network of friends without intending to use the evidence in court. On to the tips.
On to the rules-
1. Encrypt your phone- Encryption turns your cell phone data into nonsensical unintelligible gibberish, similar to a Rick Perry speech. Without the password, it’s very difficult to make this data useful quickly. Which brings me to number 2. The good news is that the new IOS automatically encrypts the data with IOS 8, and it’s easy to do on Android devices (but it may make your phone buggy).
2. Have a password- Really folks, you need a password on your phone. I know it’s a pain in the ass to log in everytime you want to do something, but do you want your friends snooping on you photos/late night sexting anyway? LEO loves reading your text messages and setting up your friends for fake drug deals. A password is the bare minimum you need to keep prying eyes away from your data.
3. Don’t talk about illegal activities via text, especially with strangers- If you get a random text from someone who you don’t know that “met you at the club” and is looking to score, that’s LEO. Don’t be that easy to catch. If you are not 100% sure who is texting you, do not respond. If you are mostly sure and it’s about something potentially illegal, don’t respond. Remember kids, the police can use you friends cell phones to bust you, and they will.
4. Use texting apps that have privacy features. Cyberdust is a good example, it will deleted your texts off of the receivers phone. Texts are forever, and the statute of limitations for drug cases in Texas is at least two years. That’s a long time for LEO to flip one of your friends.
5. Consider getting a VPN. A VPN will hide your IP address and keep your comings and going online a secret. I like them for public wifi safety (I would suggest any lawyer handling client data online use a VPN in public) and to make creepy advertiser tracking more difficult.
6. Don’t consent to a search of your phone. If LEO asks “Can I look at your phone” your answer is always no. Make them get a warrant, don’t be so easy to prosecute.
7. Download Waze. Waze is a crowdsourced driving/traffic/map app that also alerts you to LEO’s presence on the roadway. Waze will not only alert you to upcoming controls, it’s crowd sources so you can let others know where the fuzz is hiding. LEO hates Waze because it cuts into their citation/traffic tax generation. LEO hates it = you need it.
Bonus – Don’t let your car smell like weed. Not really related to cell phones, but it’s my #1 piece of advice for marijuana enthusiasts in Texas. The “odor of marijuana” is an automatic search of your car. So febreze your ride yo.