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Federal Judge rules against Customs Officers lawful authority to search US Mail

 
isl3985
(@isl3985)
Advanced Member

https://stthomassource.com/content/2018/12/03/weapons-seized-in-airport-inspection-not-admissible-in-upcoming-trial/

Don't want illegal firearms coming into the territory? Well now CBP officers will have a harder time preventing contraband from entering the territory thanks to Judge Gomez...

19 CFR 145.2 states US Mail (except letter class) from the USA to the VI and from the VI to USA is subject to "customs inspection." A customs inspection is mostly exempt from the 4th amendment requirements (getting a warrant) because of the "border search exception" doctrine.

By ruling the evidence is inadmissible in court, Judge Gomez has basically rules against the CBP officer's lawful authority to search and seize any contraband in the US mail in the USVI.

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Topic starter Posted : December 3, 2018 7:48 pm
stxsailor
(@stxsailor)
Trusted Member

But mail packages are X Rayed before they go on commercial aircraft.

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Posted : December 3, 2018 8:02 pm
isl3985
(@isl3985)
Advanced Member

How do you know?

X-rayed by whom?

And what are they looking for, contraband or explosives?

And even if they were x-rayed (by whoever) that is irrelevant, they are still subject to search and any point between leaving the USA or VI and arrival at the destination post office.

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Topic starter Posted : December 3, 2018 8:18 pm
STXBob
(@STXBob)
Trusted Member

Here's another article:
http://www.virginislandsdailynews.com/news/judge-customs-must-stop-warrantless-searches/article_f8976b3f-c60b-5f66-aa19-3d3de5358cbf.html

"...in a practical sense Gomez’s order would likely have little effect on officers’ ability to search packages — as long as they first obtain a warrant."

I take that to mean preliminary inspections by X-ray or sniffer dog without warrant are still OK, but then they need a warrant to open the package.

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Posted : December 4, 2018 10:11 am
stxsailor
(@stxsailor)
Trusted Member

"How do you know?

X-rayed by whom?

And what are they looking for, contraband or explosives?"

Anything that goes on commercial aircraft is x rayed or ETD explosive trace detection by TSA or authorized agency. Explosives and dangerous weapons is the concern for mail, cargo and baggage. Retired corporate security for an airline.

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Posted : December 4, 2018 11:05 am
isl3985
(@isl3985)
Advanced Member

stxsailor wrote:
Anything that goes on commercial aircraft is x rayed or ETD explosive trace detection by TSA or authorized agency. Explosives and dangerous weapons is the concern for mail, cargo and baggage. Retired corporate security for an airline.

So what does that have to do with customs? TSA and customs are apples and oranges. TSA does not look for contraband like drugs, currency, weapons etc, at least not in the mail.

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Topic starter Posted : December 4, 2018 11:37 am
isl3985
(@isl3985)
Advanced Member

This is what 19 CFR 145.2 says:

§ 145.2 Mail subject to Customs examination.
(a)Restrictions. Customs examination of mail as provided in paragraph (b) of this section is subject to the restrictions and safeguards relating to the opening of letter class mail set forth in § 145.3.
(b)Generally. All mail arriving from outside the Customs territory of the United States which is to be delivered within the Customs territory of the United States and all mail arriving from outside the U.S. Virgin Islands which is to be delivered within the U.S. Virgin Islands, is subject to Customs examination, except:
(1) Mail known or believed to contain only official documents addressed to officials of the U.S. Government;
(2) Mail addressed to Ambassadors and Ministers (Chiefs of Diplomatic Missions) of foreign countries; and
(3) Letter class mail known or believed to contain only correspondence or documents addressed to diplomatic missions, consular posts, or the officers thereof, or to international organizations designated by the President as public international organizations pursuant to the International Organizations Act (see § 148.87(b) of this chapter). Mail, other than letter class mail, addressed to the designated international organizations is subject to Customs examination except where the organization certifies under its official seal that the mail contains no dutiable or prohibited articles. Any Customs examination made shall, upon request of the addressee international organization, take place in the presence of an appropriate representative of that organization.

"Customs examinations" are not subject to normal 4th amendment requirements due to the "border search exception" rule. Basically what the judge has done is prevented CBP officers from searching the mail, since they do not obtain warrants...that's not what they do.

Basically it would be the same as saying they need a warrant to search your luggage when you go through the airport or your car when you cross the landborder…..

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Topic starter Posted : December 4, 2018 11:43 am
stxsailor
(@stxsailor)
Trusted Member

So what does that have to do with customs? TSA and customs are apples and oranges. TSA does not look for contraband like drugs, currency, weapons etc, at least not in the mail.

Yes they are two separate agencies, they do not care about the contraband but the weapons in the mail will raise a red flag since it is on a airplane if it comes by container on the boat different story

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Posted : December 4, 2018 12:48 pm
Gator's Mom
 Gator's Mom
(@Gator's Mom)
Guest

An individual cannot mail hand guns per USPS restrictions. Long guns have packaging restrictions. Also knives or sharp objects cannot be mailed either.

I tried to mail a Swiss army knife recently and was told by USPS that all packages are x-rayed now. If I didn't declare the knife as contents in the package the USPS would confiscate it after the package was x-rayed. So I didn't mail the knife.

At least on the mainland, all flat mail is scanned. If you sign up online at USPS, you can see scans of your letters prior to delivery.

Link to USPS document on hazardous and restricted items:
https://pe.usps.com/text/pub52/pub52c4_009.htm

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Posted : December 4, 2018 1:07 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

My 1st thought when I read the article was not having packages delayed in customs for a week and having to pay duty on it.

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Posted : December 4, 2018 2:46 pm
caribstx
(@caribstx)
Trusted Member

If I wanted or needed a gun, I'd just go to the corner store and ask my Palestinian friend to sell me one.

Why bother mailing it? He always has a nice selection.

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Posted : December 4, 2018 7:32 pm
mtdoramike
(@mtdoramike)
Trusted Member

This doesn't effect the officers from searching and seizing the object(s), it only means they can't use it in court without a warrant. I'm more concerned that they find the item and make sure it doesn't make it to it's destination than their ability to arrest and detain the sender or receiver of the package..

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Posted : December 5, 2018 12:25 pm
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