Prolonged Detention of Evidence to Accommodate Drug-Detecting Canines Does Not Violate Fourth Amendment Rights

Oct 20, 2010

A District Court judgment was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court on Monday, October 18th. The Court held that the admission of marijuana evidence, found in a mailed package delayed twenty-two hours as a result of the remoteness of the site from canine investigation, did not violate the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Robert Lozano of Barrow, Alaska, asked a post office manager whether mail was screened for drugs. Suspicious, the manager notified the postal inspector of this inquiry, who authorized a “mail watch” on Lozano’s post office box. After the arrival of a large and heavily taped package addressed to “Bill Corner” at Lozano’s box, the manager notified the inspector, who requested it be sent to him in Anchorage. The package was mailed on one of two daily flights from Barrow to Anchorage and was alerted by a drug dog. After obtaining a warrant officers found eleven pounds of marijuana inside the package. Lozano picked up the package under a controlled delivery arranged by law enforcement and was arrested and indicted on a single count of attempted possession and intent to distribute. Lozano was found guilty of both attempted possession and intent to distribute.

Lozano appealed that the evidence associated with the mailed package should have been suppressed because the inspector lacked reasonable suspicion to detain the package past it’s delivery time. He also held that detention of the package was unreasonable. The Court of appeals affirmed that the inspector did have grounds for reasonable suspicion. A delay had been upheld in the past due to the difficult of travel for drug-detecting canines. The Court also ruled that the retention stemmed from the same concerns and therefore upheld the judgment. Finally, the Court found that diversion of packages during an investigation, when based on reasonable suspicion, is also reasonable.

Judge O’Scannlain added that Lozano did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the mailed package and therefore no Fourth Amendment standing to challenge the admission of the marijuana evidence.

This case is: United States v. Lozano; 9th Cir.; October 18th, 2010; 09-30151