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Drug Dogs and the Mail...does your Postman Look Different Today?

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The exposure of an item, such as a package, located in a public place to a trained canine for a "canine sniff" does not constitute a search

I've got a package!

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Federal and State Narcotics Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

I have dealt with a number of cases where clients were arrested by the U.S. Authorities, such as DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents, when they had narcotics, such as marijuana or cocaine, sent to them via U.S. Mail, Fedex, or DHL, or UPS.  They've been arrested after they've taken possession of the package addressed to them from a DEA agent dressed like the 'FedEx guy.'  The question I always get from them at the outset of our interview on the pending charges..."is it legal?"  Unfortunately, "yes," I respond.  Here's what the law says about these types of "searches."

The exposure of a an item located in a public place, to a trained canine for a "canine sniff" does not constitute a search or a seizure, provided that the dog is properly trained and is lawfully present at the site of the sniff.  This is so because a canine sniff does not expose noncontraband items to view and discloses no information other than the presence or absence of narcotics, and because a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in the odors emanating from his or her belongings in a public place.  Neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion is necessary. This principle applies to sniffs of various items and areas, including containers, packages, luggage, storage units and lockers, and vehicle exteriors.

There may be certain circumstances in every case that warrant the filing of a suppression motion or request to have the evidence found excluded from the Commonwealth's or the U.S.'s case in chief.  If you've been investigated, arrested, or charged with possession of a narcotic that you received in the mail, contact an experienced illegal narcotics attorney at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC.  You may call us toll free or email us today.

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