Postal Service “Profile” for Mailed Drug Packages

Did you know the postal inspector examines hundreds of suspicious packages each week at the Des Moines mail processing center for narcotics and drug proceeds?  What factors make some packages stand out from others?  Here are the top 5:

  1. Fictitious name, address or telephone number.  People who ship narcotics often provide fake information to avoid detection if the package is traced.  It might be a fictitious name for the return label.  Perhaps the return address isn’t associated with the sender’s name or simply doesn’t exist.  The packing slip may provide a disconnected phone number or none at all.  While the sender could inadvertently identify an incorrect return address or provide a non-working phone number, the presence of both factors on a single package is suspicious.  The inspector has access to multiple databases, some of which are designed for law enforcement, from which information about the sender’s identity can be gleaned.  Phone numbers will be called for verification. 
  2. Taped seams.  A heavily taped box is telling to the inspector.   The inference drawn is simple.  The sender wants to inhibit odor detection by a trained drug dog.  It’s not likely to be effective. There are microscopic holes in tape (and cardboard, PVC plastic wrap, baggies, etc.) that allow odor particles to easily escape.  Excessive taping needlessly attracts attention.
  3. Handwritten labels.  The inspector rarely, if ever, sees a typewritten label on a package containing narcotics.  Handwritten labels are like the Jimmy John’s neon sign that says “Free Smells” to a drug K9. 
  4. Source state origin.  This may have been more suspicious years ago when fewer states had either medicinal or recreational marijuana.  But a package originating from California or Colorado especially with other above factors is a dead giveaway for contraband.  It’s the classic case.
  5. Differences in zip codes between the return address and post office from where package was mailed.  Another detection avoidance play.  Selecting a different post office from the one used for your regular mail raises eyebrows.

If the package meets some or all of these factors, then it will likely be presented to a drug K9 for odor detection.  If the dog alerts, then the inspector will likely engage the local drug task force to apply for a warrant to open the package, reseal it and assist with a controlled delivery where the residence will be searched via another warrant once the package is taken inside.  If there is no alert, then a controlled delivery will be made where the recipient is pressed for consent to search. 

Pro tip: Never consent to a search.

The drug defense attorneys at GRL Law are well versed in the practices and procedures behind controlled deliveries by the postal inspector.  If you are charged for possession offenses arising out of the mail (or private couriers like UPS, FedEx and DHL), then contact us immediately for a free consultation.