Alleged Butt-Dialing Pot Smoker Busts Self

Posted July 19, 2013 in Criminal Law Marijuana by

Cell phone sticking out of back pocket

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

After a New Jersey man “butt-dialed” 911 on his cell phone, he was overheard discussing drugs and quickly busted for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. 

 

Oops – Come On In!

A 911 call came in on July 5 to police from Florham Park, N.J. But instead of reporting a crime, the caller indicated one was simply in progress – because he’d accidentally called 911 with his cell phone in his pocket.

Andrew MacFarlane reportedly could be heard discussing marijuana in the background. Two police officers responded to the call, arriving at the home where MacFarlane was. Somehow they were able to view him taking things off a table and into the back of the house. 

They kept knocking and MacFarlane let them in, telling them he’d “butt-dialed” 911. But since he’d let the cops in, they were free to look around and noticed marijuana residue on the table. A further investigation revealed a bag of pot, a grinder, and a pipe in a back room.

MacFarlane was charged with possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana and of drug paraphernalia.

 

No Warrant Required

Adam Rosenblum

Assuming the 911 system provided the address automatically, why weren’t the police required to secure a warrant in order to visit MacFarlane? “Police aren’t required to obtain a warrant to knock on the door of a house where they suspect criminality is afoot,” observes Adam Rosenblum, a criminal defense lawyer with the Rosenblum Law Firm with offices in Albany, N.Y., and Clifton, N.J.

“However,” he adds, “they are required to obtain a warrant if they want to enter and/or search the house without the homeowner’s consent.” In this case it seems the homeowner let the police in, he says, “which is deemed consent to enter. Police can then look around for any drugs or drug paraphernalia that are in plain view, which is what they saw in this case.” 

Asked whether MacFarlane would have any hope of excluding either the call or the results of the search in his prosecution, Rosenblum says it would be difficult because he voluntarily let them in.

“He might argue that they should not have initiated the investigation to begin with,” he says. “Just because someone is talking about drugs doesn’t mean he is using or selling them.” 

 

Jail Time Possible

If it ends up he only had less than 50 grams of pot, MacFarlane faces a possible disorderly persons offense for minor drug possession, according to Rosenblum. That carries a possible penalty of up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

He notes that New Jersey law provides for a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and up to a $200,000 fine for the first-degree crime of manufacturing, distributing, dispensing, or possessing 5 pounds or more of marijuana.

Tagged as: , , ,