US Customs Urges Congress to Allow Searches of Out-of-Country Mail 6/2/00

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(courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)

In an effort to curb drug trafficking through the mail, the United States Customs Service is asking Congress to pass legislation which would allow the agency to search all mail leaving the United States.

Last Friday, at a hearing titled "Drugs in the Mail: How Can It Be Stopped," held by the House Committee on Government Reform's Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, the United States Postal Service testified in opposition to the proposal, citing Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. No bill has yet been introduced in the House.

"For over two centuries, the American public has had an expectation of privacy in their mail," said Kenneth Newman, the Postal Service's deputy chief inspector for criminal investigations. "[W]hen considering Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless searches, mail is in a special category... and is entitled to the same protection accorded a person's home. This requires probable cause and a federal search warrant to seize and open mail."

"The Postal Service is to be commended for standing up to the heavy hand of the Customs Service," said Keith Stroup, Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "I would suggest they send Customs a copy of the Fourth Amendment, which they apparently have never read."

NORML asks citizens who oppose this obvious violation of the Fourth Amendment to contact members of the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources. A list of subcommittee members is available online at http://www.house.gov/reform/cj/members.htm.

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