"Drug Package Profile" Instituted to Crack Down on Marijuana Growers
In an effort to clamp down on marijuana growers using the U.S. Postal System as a means to distribute their harvests, the United States Postal Service, in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration and local officials, have constructed a "Drug Package Profile" to alert postal employees to suspicious mail. The mail profile focuses primarily on the following characteristics:
Packages fitting all or some of these descriptions are generally deemed to be suspicious and will often be removed from the conveyer belts of mainstream mail. Once the package is isoloated, a drug-sniffing dog is brought in to investigate further. If the dog reacts to the package, the police will obtain a search warrant. The package is then opened, its contens fully examined, and a controlled delivery by DEA agents and local authorities is made. (Often times, a singaling device may be placed on the package as well.) Depending on the circumstances and the nature of the delivery, the recipient of the package may be arrested immediatey upon acceptace or his actions may continue to be monitored throughout the course of the day.
- size and shape of the package;
- package heavily taped to close and seal all openings;
- hand-written labels;
- unusual return names and addresses;
- unusual odors coming from the package;
- fictitious return addressee;
- destination of parcel;
- multiple packages sent to same address, but to different persons
- packages mails to arrive for delivery on a repeated basis.
Although many of the characteristcs of the "Profile" (e.g. hand-written labels and heavily taped packages) appear to be quite general and/or vague in nature, the courts have consistently upheld the "Profile" and have deemed it not to be the basis of an aribtrary search. Therefore, as long as the package is opened by either: a) a private citizen or b) an officer of the law who has gained lawful possession of the package through the action of a private party, the courts have ruled that the procedure does not constitute an invasion of the defendant's privacy and is, thus, not in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Moreover, if mail being sent by Federal Express or UPS is "accidentally" dropped or damaged by a employee -- thereby exposing the package's contents without probable cause -- the illicit evidence will still stand in a court of law.
Consequently, even though many prosecutors continute to call for a "drug exception" to the Constitution, real life repeatedly dictates that modern America already has one.
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