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Nan (Nanook)
Posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 10:29 pm:Edit Post Quote Text Delete Post Print Post Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Davidgergen:

I'm just wondering if anyone knows the risks of getting busted from sending and/or receiving drugs in the mail?

Somebody told me that for packages sent through the US Mail, a search warrant is needed to open and inspect the package. By contrast, for packages sent through a private carrier (such as, for example, FedEx), no search warrant is needed.

I've also been told that if drugs ARE found in a package sent to you, they will be confiscated, and you will receive a letter from the postal inspector (or US customs) saying they've been confiscated, but you will NOT be busted?

Is that true?

I know I've heard of people getting busted who received large amounts of drugs through the mail (such as a pound of marijuana). In such circumstances, a "controlled delivery" is made, and then the police bust the person receiving the drugs once they take the drugs into their home (as I understand it, this requires two search warrants: first, a search warrant to inspect the package before it's delivered; second, a search warrant to enter the home once the recipient has received the package).

Generally, is it better to send (or receive) things through the US Mail or a private carrier? If private carriers learn of contraband, do they pass that information on to law enforcement? Does the US Mail flag addresses for private carriers, warning them that the addressee might be receiving contraband?

How likely is it that you'll be busted if, say, the US Mail learns you've received contraband drugs in the mail, and you simply tell them that you have no idea why it was sent to you, but it could have been sent by someone (an enemy) trying to get you in trouble?

If anyone has any knowledge on this area (particularly receiving drugs in US), I'd really appreciate if you'd pass it on.

Thanks.

Nanook:

I am sure you will get better answers from others. In general the private carriers cooperate with the gestapo, no questions asked, and nothing is secure. US mails... I'll tell ya, them postal workers could generally care less what is in the box... Look how long it took the fibbies to snatch the unabomber... And it was his brother that turned him in finally... There is a lession here. Nan

Jesseb:

If the USPS workers don't get it before you do. I have had mail delivered that has been opened before. Sorry I don't know about the laws in question. jesseb

Nanook:

Hell I seal the boxes to make them virtually tamper proof. Glue the top and bottom cardboard flaps with Elmers, then mummify the outside with strapping tape. It discourages tampering because it is a real pain in the ass to open :)

Atomichrist:

Some other tips: Best time to be sending out a lot of packages is when there's a lot of mail...like christmas, around mother's day, etc.

Sealing boxes is good.
Also, labeling the boxes "perishable" and "fragile" is a good idea.

Hippie3:

i'd go with the us mail, of course, the penalties are severe, if you get caught. otherwise, it sounds like you know the score. 'tis better to send, than to recieve, imo.

Davidgergen:

Thanks for the feedback.

Hippie - can you share any anecdotes of people getting busted for the mailing or receipt of drugs through the mail? How, exactly, did the bust go down? Did they deliver the package, and then, once the person accepted delivery, bust him? Or could they do the bust before the delivery was actually made, simply based on the fact contraband was addressed to the person being busted?

Hippie3:

ryche hawk got busted getting hash thru the mails from europe, supposedly, they popped him right outside the post office before he even opened it. but my friends have ordered valiums and zanax from thailand with no problems.

Davidgergen:

re hawk bust: that's really good to know. this is the type of package the post office would ordinarily deliver to my residence. if they hold it for me to pick it up, i just wouldn't pick it up.

was the guy who got busted receiving a lot of dope, or was it just a small amount?

Hippie3:

a couple ounces of hash is what i heard, a fairly large amount by some standards.

Highgear:

From what I have heard it is standard when the cops discover there are drugs in the package to hold it at the post office. Once you get there, if you see who it is from and accept it, you can be busted. So you are correct that if you dont go pick it up nothing will happen from what i have heard. When mailing things make sure to use a real return address, but obviously not your own. I hope I have been of some help.

Davidgergen:

Well, I've been doing some more research, and can pass along a few things to those who are interested. [Note: all of this information applies to packages sent within the US; for packages sent within other countries, or from one country to another country, other laws and procedures will apply.]

DRUG PACKAGE PROFILE/SEARCH WARRANT

US postal inspectors routinely profile Express Mail parcels at the airport as they are unloaded from arriving flights.

This profile consists of a number of "well-recognized" characteristics, which consider: (1) the size and shape of the package and its outward appearance; (2) whether the package has been heavily taped so as to seal or close all seams, edges and/or openings; (3) whether the package contains handwritten or printed labels; (4) the nature and destination of the package and/or its point of origin; (5) the absence or presence of odors; (6) whether the sender's zip code matches the zip code affixed by the postal clerk; and (7) whether the package contains a fictitious return address. [Note: postal inspectors may sniff packages for the tell-tale scent of marijuana, as well as such odors as coffee, mustard, perfume or clothes dryer sheets that *mask* drug smells.]

In one case, the postal inspector became suspicious of a package because it fit five of the profile characteristics, including: (1) all edges, seams and openings were heavily taped; (2) the package contained a fictitious return address and (3) handwritten labels; (4) the package originated in a recognized "drug source" state and locality, i.e., San Diego, California; and (5) the 8 1/4" by 8 1/4" dimensions of the package.

Equally significant was the fact that the package was shipped via Express Mail. The postal inspector testified that, based both upon his personal experience and training and the experience of the Postal Service generally, delivery services such as Express Mail, Federal Express Overnight, and United Parcel Service Overnight are the primary carriers utilized by drug dealers seeking to ship narcotics throughout the country, specifically because they guarantee next-day delivery. Accordingly, postal inspectors subject Express Mail packages to closer scrutiny than is accorded items sent by regular mail.

The cumulative effect of all these factors caused the postal inspector to suspect that the package might contain a controlled substance. He then removed the package from the mail stream and obtained the assistance of a narcotics detection canine named "Zak." The package was placed on the floor amidst eight other parcels, and Zak was directed to sniff the packages. Zak alerted to the suspect package. The package was then placed in a different position among the other eight parcels, and the test was repeated. Zak again alerted to the suspect package. {A dog sniff of a package does not require a search warrant; a positive sniff or "alert" can be used as a basis for then obtaining a warrant.}

The postal inspector then applied for and obtained a federal search warrant to open the package and search its contents. Upon executing the search warrant, the authorities discovered that the package contained approximately one-half pound of marijuana. The package was then resealed in order to permit the authorities to effect a controlled delivery to the address specified on the package. When the addressee accepted delivery of the package, he was arrested.

PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE CARRIER

A private carrier (like DHL or FedEx) does not require a warrant to inspect and open a package. This is for at least two reasons. First, private carriers are not covered by Fourth Amendment restrictions on search and seizure because they are not actors of the government (as opposed to the USPS, which is covered by the Fourth Amendment). Second, in the small print of the form you sign to send a package via private carrier, you probably give the carrier the right to open and inspect the package at any time.

FedEx and DHL, etc., have security agents whose job it is to look for suspicious packages. Most of the private carriers (with the exception of UPS) allow law enforcement to borrow company uniforms and trucks to stage controlled delivery busts (although FedEx claims that it allows this only rarely).

AVOIDING GETTING BUSTED

The time at which one runs a real risk of getting busted is when you pick up a package, or when it is delivered to your home and you have to sign for delivery.

From the news stories and cases I've read, it appears that if you decline to pick up a package you've been told is waiting for pick-up, you will not be busted even if law enforcement knows the package contains contraband. Similarly, it appears you will not be busted if you refuse to sign for a package that's hand-delivered to your door. But once you sign for a package containing contraband and accept delivery, you can be busted (and it doesn't appear to make any difference whether you've opened the package or not).

In the case of Robert Parish, Celtics basketball great, 5 oz. of marijuana was delivered to his house by FedEx. Previously, FedEx had apparently received a tip, opened the package, discovered the marijuana, and then re-sealed it. The police obtained a search warrant based on their knowledge that Parish had received the dope. When they searched his house, they found the dope and Parrish was busted.

In another, more recent case, a Detroit Tigers minor league pitcher, Matt Anderson, was arrested when he signed to accept delivery of an overnight package which contained marijuana. It is not clear from the articles I've read whether this package was sent via USPS or a private carrier.

I'd like to hear from anyone who has any further information on this topic, especially any relevant drug bust stories.

Nanook:

I never ship anything overnight. Ground, by the cheapest rate, always. And I ship larger boxes with lots of "stuff" inside. Puzzles, a bottle of wine, some old books, box of cookies... Like a wartime Red Cross package. Nan

Atomichrist:

It IS wartime, Nanook.

Nanook:

Yup, which is why I send Red Cross packages :)

Highgear:

(3)whether the package contains handwritten or printed labels

Which would make them suspicious? Handwritten or printed?

Brettiejams:

Handwritten would be my guess.

Mushy:

A friend of my Dad's ordered some pot from a friend of his years ago. Forget which carrier, but I think it was US Mail. Anyway, they accepted delivery, but when they got busted a few minutes later, they had not opened the package.

They ended up getting busted, but they fought the charge saying they had ordered T-shirts from the company (the sender used a bogus company name as the 'source' of the package). After thousands of dollars in legal fees, they got off, but it took a long time and caused a lot of headaches.

I have sent small buds in envelopes with no trouble, and in college we received a quarter pound via FedEx Saturday delivery to our dorm.

Whatever you do, be very very very careful...