August 2, 2013 • Jerod Gunsberg, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer
California Cops Use Craigslist to Make Narcotics Arrests
The “Adult Services” section of Craigslist is long gone. Unable to take the heat of accusations that it was a hub of prostitution, the company shut down the section a couple of years back. But that does not mean that adult activity on Craigslist is lost and gone forever. No way. In fact, much of the activity has moved over to the “Personals” section of the site and police agencies throughout California have turned their ever-vigilant eyes to what’s going on over there.
A cursory search of Craigslist “Personals” does not show blatant prostitution. What it shows are many ads from people looking to hang out together. In some of these ads, the person posting the ad claims to be a young lady looking for someone to come over with “party favors” or wondering if someone can bring along “Tina” or “Molly.”
Tina, of course, is slang for crystal meth. Molly, as we all know, is slang for ecstasy. The way these ads are written don’t mention sex explicitly, but it is definitely written to convey the impression to the unwary that if someone brings along Tina or Molly as a “party favor” then a good time will be had by all. People’s imaginations run wild from there.
But the cops have caught on to this too. In fact, the cops may very well be the ones posting these ads. An increasingly popular sting these days goes like this: A cop sits at his desk and logs on to Craigslist where he poses as the attractive female looking for someone to bring Tina or Molly or “party favors.” When someone responds over email, the cop arranges a rendezvous and they then bust the person.
And what, you ask, is the person busted for? Soliciting prostitution? Nope. There’s usually not enough evidence for that. It’s something far worse: Transportation and/or furnishing of crystal meth and/or ecstasy in violation of California Health and Safety Code Section 11379.
This may sound stupid, but it is very serious. Violating H&S 11379 is a straight felony. This means it cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor. It carries a “county prison” sentence of up to six years and up to nine years if the drugs are transported from one non-contiguous county to another. These are considered state prison sentences, but may be served in local county jails due to overcrowding in the state prisons (depending on the defendant’s prior criminal history).
Does this mean that some first time offender who got caught up in this is going to be incarcerated? In Los Angeles County, unless there’s a lot of drugs, probably not. But if someone gets caught up in this and has an extensive rap sheet, there could be problems.
So how does one defend against these charges? Isn’t this entrapment? Usually not. In California, in these kinds of cases, entrapment is only a defense if the cop on the other end of the personal ad really harassed and pressured someone into bringing them drugs who was not otherwise inclined to do so.
The way these cases are fought are by issues of proof. It often turns on whether the cops can prove that the drugs were transported, were actually furnished to someone, or whether this is just simple possession (which is a far less serious violation under Health and Safety Code 11377). These issues turn on the correspondence between the cop and the defendant and what was said at the scene.
Bottom line: The surest way not caught in this scenario is to avoid going online and agreeing to bring drugs to a stranger. But if you do get caught up in this, don’t say a thing to the cops. Invoke your right to silence and wait to contact a lawyer.
If you or a loved one are facing narcotics charges, do not hesitate to call The Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg for a confidential consultation. Call 310-210-0744 or use the contact form.