Ordering drugs in the mail over the so-called “dark net” has become popular with drug users and dealers alike. The dark net is (in theory) anonymous, and drugs ordered from these sources are generally cheaper and purer than street drugs. Plus, they don’t carry the risk of dealing with cartels or distributors.
Because this tactic is relatively new, many people believe that they stand less chance of being caught by law enforcement. However, police are now cracking down on this sort of crime.
For example, a Champaign couple was allegedly receiving cannabis by mail and selling it and other drugs (including hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and Ecstasy) until they were caught by police and charged with cannabis trafficking and possession with intent to deliver.
How did the cops find out?
They obtained a search warrant for the couple’s residence after learning that a suspicious package had been mailed to the couple’s address. They intercepted the package and found that it contained about four ounces of cannabis concentrate. This was then used as probable cause to obtain a search warrant of the couple’s residence, which revealed the other substances and a drug distribution operation.
If convicted, the couple could face decades of prison time. This is a case in point of how authorities are cracking down on mail order drugs.
How exactly did they learn about the suspicious package, though? Do these types of situations always result in drug trafficking charges?
Below, we take a look at how police catch mail order drugs, and how these crimes are prosecuted.
How Illinois Law Enforcement Is Cracking Down on Mailed Drugs
Sending drugs by mail has become increasingly common in recent years, and for good reason. Drugs sent by mail are often very difficult for standard inspection facilities to detect.
Law enforcement, however, is working to change this.
Chicago’s O’Hare Airport Mail Facility is a major distribution point for packages shipped to the Midwest, and is estimated to be the second-largest gateway for drug shipments in the US. Due to the nation’s opioid crisis and the increased prevalence of mail-order drug crimes, law enforcement has initiated a major effort to intercept suspicious packages traveling through the facility.
The O’Hare mail facility has implemented high-tech detection systems in order to better detect drug-containing packages. This equipment will better enable law enforcement to intercept drugs in the mail.
When drug-containing packages are intercepted, law enforcement can then use this as probable cause to search the shipping address. Ultimately, the recipient will be charged not only with the drugs intercepted in the mail, but also with any evidence found at the shipping address.
Federal law enforcement is also infiltrating the dark net to catch those buying and selling drugs. Federal agents have conducted a number of major sting operations on the dark net, catching both the buyers and sellers of illicit substances in the process.
Dark net transactions have become more widespread with the advent of Bitcoin and other theoretically anonymous cryptocurrencies, which are frequently used for illegal activities.
Let’s look closer at Bitcoin specifically. While supposedly anonymous, in reality this isn’t entirely true.
Every Bitcoin transaction is transcribed on a public Bitcoin ledger, which the authorities have used to create a map of where Bitcoin is going. This can sometimes be used to find the real-world identity behind the transactions. Bitcoin also becomes traceable when it is converted to other currencies.
Possession Versus Trafficking Charges in Illinois
Technically, sending or ordering drugs in the mail could be considered federal drug trafficking, as this offense most likely involves the transport of drugs across state lines.
However, what about individual drug users who have no intent to distribute the drug in question? This becomes a legal gray area.
Thus far, prosecutors have only pressed drug trafficking charges in these cases when the intent to distribute the drugs can be proven.
For example, in the above case, the quantity of cannabis concentrate ordered would be suggestive of the intent to distribute, and a search of the defendants’ residence revealed further evidence of drug distribution, in addition to distribution quantities of other illicit substances.
If prosecutors cannot prove that the defendant has the intent to sell or distribute the drugs, ordering drugs in the mail is generally charged as simple possession. However, because any intercepted packages are considered probable cause to search the shipping address, you can expect to face charges for any additional evidence of drug crimes or other criminal offenses obtained during the search.
Due to recent crackdowns, we can absolutely expect increased prosecution of drug crimes committed using the mail. If you want to avoid charges, it’s important to be aware of these efforts and understand the law.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.