What Happens When the USPS Discovers Drugs?

what happens when usps finds drugs

Since fifty years ago, mail delivery by the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been a typical method of cross-country shipment. People frequently use this service when mailing products to friends, family members, or gifts for a special occasion. But what if you utilize the USPS to transmit mail containing prohibited substances?

Even though several jurisdictions in the US have legalized marijuana, it is still illegal to mail a package containing drugs. 

Although marijuana is often legal or decriminalized, sending it through the USPS will be considered drug trafficking if you are detected. No matter where you mail the illegal substances, if the cops locate and identify the sender and recipient of the shipment, everyone involved might get charged with significant crimes. You can get charged with a felony in the United States because of the rigorous nature of drug trafficking laws. 

Drug trafficking and the USPS

There are many different ways of drug trafficking. Drugs can be transported through the mail and driven across state boundaries. 

The Fourth Amendment is one of the critical justifications why someone could try to mail drugs. 

According to the Fourth Amendment, “no warrants shall issue, and no right shall be infringed, except in cases of probable cause,” and “the people shall have the right to be safe and secure in their persons, homes, documents, and property against unwarranted searches and seizures.”

Per the inspection guidelines of the USPS Inspection Service, First-class mail is exempt from Fourth Amendment restrictions. So, they can’t be searched or taken into custody. 

A search warrant is required to seize and search a package delivered by USPS. The Postal Inspectors may ask for a search warrant to open a letter or package if they believe it includes something against the law. 

According to a study, cops held 39,301 pounds of marijuana in just 2014, making it the most frequently seized drug.

The first thing that happens if there is a suspect of drug trafficking is that the package is “seized,” which means it is removed from its regular mail cycle for inspection by the authorities. A drug dog will inspect the parcel, and the administration will only open the package with a warrant if the dog signals that there is something questionable therein.

A “controlled delivery,” in which an undercover police officer poses as the mailman and delivers the box, is likely to occur if drugs are discovered in the package. If the person at the recipient’s address receives the parcel, authorities will take him in.

Factors permitting a package to be seized

The US courts have developed a list of circumstances that allow confiscating a package in cases involving drug trafficking through USPS, and each of these circumstances is relatively innocuous. Here are a few factors:

  • Using Express Mail
  • The package’s weight,
  • Puerto Rico, known as a drug source, sent the box.
  • The parcel arrived from a postal office address outside the return address’s zip code.
  • An Accurint check confirms that the return address was empty for residents of the sender’s name.
  • The package’s seams are all heavily taped, and
  • Handwritten label

Can USPS arrest a person for mailing drugs?

Arrests are made in collaboration with local law enforcement, although the USPS still has a team of inspectors conducting drug searches. However, because strengthening relationships with law enforcement is a prime consideration for the organization, USPS may be the first to report arrests in a mailed drugs case.

For example, a person is not a drug cartel member; instead, he is a regular Florida resident who wants to send a bag of marijuana candies to a buddy in a nearby state as a gift for his friend’s birthday.

If the person didn’t know it was against the law and filled out the return address with his information, USPS would send cops to his house to arrest him. Furthermore, because it’s against the law to receive sent drugs, his friend, who may not have realized he was the intended recipient of the package, may also get detained.

Because the USPS is a federal entity, utilizing its services to commit any unlawful act is a felony.

USPS may therefore take the person and his friend into custody on felony drug trafficking charges

Can a person send prescription medications through USPS?

Even if the sender is the person with the prescription, it is illegal for regular people to ship prescription medications.

Only authorized vendors with the clearance of the Drug Enforcement Administration may send prescription medications through the mail.

However, anything that does not need a prescription can dispatch through the mail as an over-the-counter “medicine.” For example, it can mail items like cold medicine, Pepto Bismol, pain relief lotions, etc., without specific considerations or permission from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Use of drug-sniffing dogs by USPS

Although USPS doesn’t directly use drug-sniffing dogs, they do work with the K9 units of the local police. Drug sniffing dogs are crucial to drug dealers’ hunt since USPS inspectors require “reasonable suspicion” to get a search warrant and examine packages.

Six boxes, including the suspicious-looking one and the five ones devoid of drugs, might be lined together to give inspectors a reason to be suspicious.

After the K9 has sniffed each one, if it identifies the suspected box, USPS has probable cause and may seek a search warrant.

What should a person do if his drugs get caught in the mail?

On getting accused of sending or receiving drugs, it is essential to hire a defense lawyer. If a person wants to exercise his right to be represented by an attorney, he should not answer any questions and be quiet altogether.

It is crucial because whatever he says after being Mirandized can be used as evidence against him, even if he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

Defenses against drugs delivered by mail

It’s crucial to comprehend the case’s particulars to devise a workable defense plan for a case involving drug trafficking by mail. Possible countermeasures include:

  • Insufficient evidence
  • Counterfeit evidence
  • Faulty testimony
  • Entrapment

Remember that the prosecution needs strong evidence to obtain a conviction for drug mailing or trafficking. It is more difficult for the prosecution to have a solid case against any person without significant incriminating evidence.

Contacting a competent defense lawyer is the most effective approach to make sure there is a strong defense for a case.


The United States Postal Service (USPS) takes the use of its service for drug trafficking very severely as a federally associated entity under the Executive branch of government.

To “seize” a parcel detached from its usual mailing cycle, law enforcement must have “reasonable suspicion.” Once the item has been “seized,” a drug dog may inspect it; if the dog detects the presence of drugs, the court will give the warrant to open the package. 

If drugs are found, undercover police would make a “controlled delivery” of the parcel. So, one should avoid mailing prohibited drugs.


What is the penalty for drug trafficking through the mail?

Ten years minimum imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10 million (for the first offense). Twenty years minimum imprisonment and a maximum fine of $20 million (for the second offense).  Additional punishments are based on the kind and quantity of drugs transported.

What does tracking indicate when USPS seizes a package?

The message “Seized by Law Enforcement” may appear when the parcel is scanned, but there may not be a message.

When USPS claims that your shipment has been intercepted, what does that mean?

USPS package intercept can stop a package, letter, or anything which is either delivered or not delivered for a fee. Package Intercept is available for most domestic mailings with a tracking or additional services barcode.

How do USPS inspect parcels for illegal items?

If a postal employee or inspector suspects a box includes illegal items, they must often get a search warrant before opening it. Being a branch of the federal government, the United States Postal Service has an inspection service that monitors parcels.