10/23/03 US v. PERKINS, No. 02-15891
(11th Cir. October 22, 2003)
Suppression of verbal and physical evidence obtained during a traffic
the issuance of a traffic warning citation is affirmed where the
do not give rise to reasonable suspicion justifying
continued detention of
defendants after the warning ticket had been
Plain Simple English! once he
is done writing your ticket that he pulled you over
for? Your then free to just leave!
he can not detain you any longer, like to wait for a
drug dog for an example!
9 Different Reports So Be Sure to Check The Entire Page
While drugs traffickers range in age
from 14 to 75 and can be any race or gender, there are several combinations that
seem to be the norm. While these indicators should not be your sole deciding
factor in whether or not to ask for consent to search, they should most
certainly be taken into account.
ANYONE BETWEEN THE AGES OF 21 and 30 - Almost half of all drug traffickers
fall into this age group. Approximately 30% of all traffickers are between
the ages of 31 and 40.
2 MIDDLE-AGED MALES ANY RACE - This is highly unusual, and dealers know
this, so it's not often used. However, if you come across this situation,
look for other indicators as well. They could be business men traveling
together, but if that's the case, there should be some indication as to
their work. Such as briefcases or extra business clothes in the back seat.
Look at the whole picture though. If they have nice, new looking briefcases
and old, ratty looking suits on, it doesn't quite go together and could be a
1 FEMALE - Most females will not travel alone and if you see this it
should be a major indication of trafficking. However, as usual, the
traffickers have figured out that this looks suspicious and have gone to
using 2 or more females as described below. Still though, keep your eyes
open for a lone female driver.
2 OR MORE FEMALES - Most of the time, women will have someone traveling
with them. Sometimes they are going to music concerts or to visit friends or
family. Most of the time there will be three or four going together to
concerts. Most often than not they will have a user amount of drugs with
them. Normally, if a woman is in her late teens or early twenties, and is
traveling with another woman of the same age, it's a good indication that
they may be running drugs. Most older women, 30 and up, will drive alone
when trafficking, or they will have children with them as a cover. Children
could be an indicator as well. How old is the child? Is he/she school age?
If so, why isn't he/she in school?
An Illinois Trooper got a young female
and her young children driving a U-Haul. Over 1,000 pounds of marijuana was
found in the back of the truck. If a woman is moving, she will more than
likely have someone traveling in another car with her. Plus, if she states
that she is traveling with someone, it's still unusual for the woman to be
driving the U-Haul.
OLDER MAN/YOUNGER WOMAN - if there appears to be an age difference of more
than 10 years, something is probably amiss. It could be a Dad and his
daughter, or a Grandfather and granddaughter, but this is very rare. One big
time dealer that got busted was in his 30's and had paid a 19 year old girl
to travel with him. This same character also had telltale license plates,
but they'll be more about him in Chapter 5.
NICELY DRESSED COUPLES - this is a good indicator if your working highway
interdiction as most people will not travel long distances in nice clothing.
One load that got busted in Missouri was being hauled by a man in a business
suit and a woman in an evening dress. What tipped the arresting Officers off
besides their fancy outfits? They were from Mexico and the car they were
driving was a newer model, with excessive mileage on it. 4,000 to 5,000
miles per month had been put on the vehicle. Further investigation revealed
maps marked with past trips on it and first names written beside different
cities. 150 pounds of marijuana was seized and after his $15,000 bond was
paid in cash, he was never seen again.
NATIONALITY INDICATORS - These indicators should never be used as the sole
reason to stop or detain a person for suspected drug smuggling, but should
be used in conjunction with other indications to increase probability. Most
traffickers are either U.S. or Mexican nationals. Other nationalities with
high incidents of trafficking are Cuban, Dominican and Jamaican. The number
of Columbians trafficking in the U.S. has decreased, however, the number of
traffickers from other South American countries and the Caribbean are on the
You should go to a truck yard and
inspect some semi tractor/trailers so will know when you see something on the
outside that doesn't fit. Many times, truck drivers trafficking drugs count on
the fact that you don't know what is supposed to be on a big truck and what
isn't. Any type of custom-built canister mounted on the outside of a
tractor/trailer can be a potential hiding place for drugs. Many times these
canisters will even have pseudo working lines running from them into the truck,
making it appear to be a working piece of machinery. The following are some of
the external hiding spots commercial carriers use to hide illegal drugs in.
AIR FILTERS/CLEANERS AND LUBREFINERS - These tanks can be found in three
different areas, depending on the type of semi. An air filter can be mounted
on the back of the cab, and there should be only one of them. If there are
two, the other one could be hiding illegal drugs. On "streamliner"
models, the air filter is usually mounted underneath the hood forward of the
firewall. On other models, the air filter is usually mounted just forward of
the passenger door under the window level. Occasionally, some tractors are
equipped with two to three air filters, with one located under the hood and
others externally mounted. Again, only one is necessary for safe operation
of the vehicle. To test for the legitimacy of and air filter, hold a lit
cigarette up to the filters intake. If smoke is sucked into the filter, the
unit is functional. Two non-identical tanks mounted on the back of the cab
will usually represent an air filter on the right and a lubrefiner on the
left. A lubrefiner is unnecessary and obsolete because of the purity of
refinement of today's lubricants. For the past eight years these devices
have had to be custom ordered. If they are warm to the touch then they are
functioning. An out-modeled lubrefiner is a perfect place to hide drugs.
AIR COMPRESSORS - Tractor trailers must have one of these, with an air
dryer, for braking purposes. Most carry the brand name "Bendix".
Different classes of trailers require different compression capacities. At
the most, one or two air compressors meet safety guidelines. Most tractor
trailers can be equipped with three to four compressors for extra safety. If
a driver routinely maintains and checks his equipment, the third and fourth
are redundant. If one of these devices is being used to hide drugs, the
canister will appear to be sealed and connected to the real compressor by
phony connecting hoses and clamps. To test and see if an air compressor or
dryer is phony, have the driver apply pressure to the brakes. As pressure is
bled off the compressor should kick on to increase the pressure. When this
is completed, the air dryer emits a blast of air, dumping moisture from the
air lines. If the unit does not perform this dumping, then it is not
EXHAUST STACKS - A large amount drugs can be hidden inside a false or
inoperable exhaust stack. Normally tractors have only one exhaust manifold
which is located on the right side of the engine. A single stack is normally
used because it causes "back pressure" and extends the life of a
diesel engine. If a tractor has dual stacks, the left manifold will be cut
into the right. Close inspection will determine if this is actually the
case. Watch a truck, and if only one of the stacks emits smoke as the truck
is pulling away from a weigh station or stop, then the second stack is
TUBELESS TIRES - This is most risky for traffickers to use because of the
danger of damaging the tires and the loss of the drugs. A tubed tire will
always have a flat rim, while a tubeless tire has a noticeable hump in the
rim. Look for this when inspecting tires for hidden drugs.
FUEL TANKS - One or two tanks will be visible on customized rigs, each
holding from 60 to 150 gallons. For a truck to "line haul" (going
from coast to coast), twin 150 gallon tanks are normally used. A large fuel
tank could be fitted with interior bulkhead, creating a false compartment to
hide drugs in. These compartments are very difficult to locate and the same
techniques should be used on semi tanks, as on normal automobile tanks.
Access to these storage areas can be made either from under a step plate or
underneath a running board. Fuel tanks attached to the trailer for
refrigeration or heating units could be manipulated in the same manner.
BATTERY BOXES - A normal tractor trailer is equipped with one battery box,
containing two batteries, one for backup. A tractor needs only one battery
to run, so the second battery could be used to conceal drugs. Customized
tractors will have two battery boxes, creating even more space to hide drugs
in. Many times, in the cases of trucks that go north in the winter, the dual
battery boxes, with batteries in them, is not redundant. Closely inspect the
batteries and cables to be sure they are not false.
POWER DIFFERENTIAL - If a trafficker has a good mechanic, he could have
the power drive fixed so that all drive power is transferred to the front
drive axle only. This causes the second, or rear axle to continue to turn
and appear completely normal. The junction box and the rear axle liner could
be used to hide drugs in. Detection of this is difficult and there are a
couple ways you can check. First, on ice or slippery conditions, the front
tires would spin while the rear ones would not. Second, at a toll booth or
weigh station, a trained eye can see the front tires "bite" into
the pavement on take off while the rear tires would roll freely.
AIR BAGS - You should be suspicious of air spring suspension bags if the
trailer is equipped with both conventional springs and air spring suspension
bags. Or, if the air spring suspension bags do not appear in pairs on each
HYDRAULIC SYSTEM - Normally a false system and hose configuration will be
attached to the rear of the sleeper cab. If the system is real, power take
off (PTO) controls can be found in the cab. In all probability, traffickers
would not go to the trouble to install fake PTO controls in the cab.
However, if PTO controls are found in the truck, they should be tested.
FABRICATED HOOD STORAGE - There are many false cavities and compartments
in the hood area, especially if the hood is made of fiberglass. To detect
panels and doors concealing these compartments, the hood must be raised into
it's 90 degree service position.
UNDERNEATH THE CAB - A false compartment under the floor of the cab would
be hidden from sight by the side panels which extend 4" to 6" past
the bottom of the cab floor. This makes them difficult to detect. You may be
able to detect these hidden compartments by crawling underneath the tractor.
Once again, you will need to know what looks normal under a tractor, before
you can accurately distinguish what is NOT normal.
GRATE IN FRONT OF AXLE - Some traffickers may mount a tank under a grate
that is in front of the front axle. There is no use for any tank you may see
mounted in this area and it should be considered suspicious if there is one.
FLATBED TRAILERS - Flatbeds can be modified so that the entire metal
structure of the trailer is raised by several inches, creating an empty
space perfect for hiding drugs in. The compartment will be between the bed
of the trailer and the frame beneath. Look for boards on the flatbed that
appear to have been pryed up and then screwed back down, or boards that have
Now we're going to the inside of a tractor trailer, mostly in the cab. Because
these cabs serve as on-the-road homes for up to two people, they contain many
small compartments for storage and can many times be easily altered to store
large amounts of drugs. Here are some of the hiding places for inside the cab of
a big rig.
SLEEPER COMPARTMENT - The sleeper compartment on most trucks measure
30" to 63" in depth and 80" in width. A 2" liner space
can be found in the wall of the sleeper, usually filled with insulation.
This insulation can be removed to create a hiding place for drugs. All you
have to do is loosen the felt or leather interior wall liner and the
compartment is readily available. A trafficker can conceal up to 500 kilos
of cocaine in one of these spaces as the compartment can run the entire
length and width of the sleeper. Sometimes there will be electronic switches
concealed in the sleeper area for easy access to hidden drugs.
TRACTOR DOORS - With the window rolled down, the hollow compartment
remaining at the bottom of the door measures approximately 12" in
height and the width of the door itself. This means the window will still
function properly, even with a large amount of drugs hidden in the door. You
can tap with your screwdriver on the door, listening for a hollow sound, the
same as on a car.
CAB STORAGE DOORS - These are found on the sides of the sleeper unit and
offer access to storage compartments under the sleeper bed. The space is
approximately 14" to 16" deep, extending the complete width of the
sleeper unit. A couple fabricated bulkheads would hide a hidden compartment
in this area from view. These type of hidden compartments can only be
detected by measuring inside and outside dimensions.
MISCELLANEOUS HIDING PLACES - Even though you will not normally find the
big loads in these spots, they should always be checked for user amounts.
They include many of the same places as in cars (headrests, glove boxes,
etc.), but a big rig has many more nooks and crannies for hiding drugs in.
Be sure to always check the storage compartments that are above the truck
drivers head. There could be anywhere from one to three of four of these on
any given truck. These are normally used to hold maps, log books and the
like. These compartments are pretty deep, and you'll probably have to shine
your flashlight back in them to detect any hidden drugs. Many truck drivers
have small refrigerators on their rigs and they should be checked thoroughly
as well. And don't forget to check luggage and duffel bags belonging to the
driver and/or passenger. Since many rigs are customized, especially
owner/operator trucks, there is no limit to the number of compartments that
could be in one. Be sure to inspect everything very carefully.
The following are frequently used routes
of travel for drug traffickers. If you patrol an area of one of these highways,
your community may benefit from a drug interdiction program. In the case of each
highway, you will most likely get illegal drugs on the eastbound side and drug
money on the westbound side. Interstates that run north and south are normally
used by traffickers to jump from one west or east bound interstate to another.
Interstate 10 - Runs from Los Angeles, California, through Arizona and New
Mexico to Houston, Texas. It then runs along the Gulf Coast all the way to
Interstate 20 - Runs from approximately Pecos, Texas, through Ft. Worth
and on into Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Then on to Atlanta, Georgia
and finally Columbia, South Carolina.
Interstate 40 - Runs from approximately San Bernadino, California through
Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It continues on
through Little Rock, Arkansas and Nashville, Tennessee. It then goes on to
Wilmington, North Carolina.
Interstate 44 - Runs from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma through Tulsa, Oklahoma
and on into Springfield, Missouri and then up to St. Louis. Even though this
is a rather short section of interstate, many traffickers use it as it
connects to I-40, I-35, and I-135.
Interstate 70 - This interstate comes off of Interstate 15 in Utah. It
then runs through Denver, Colorado and on through Kansas to Kansas City. It
also hits St. Louis, Missouri, then it goes through Illinois to Indianapolis, Indiana, then Columbus, Ohio and finally Baltimore, Maryland.
Interstate 80 - Runs from San Francisco/Oakland, California area through
the center of the U.S., hitting Salt Lake City, Utah, Omaha, Nebraska, and
Des Moines, Iowa. It then continues on through Northern Illinois, Indiana,
Ohio and Pennsylvania and finally to New York City.
Interstate 95 - Runs from Miami, Florida up the eastern seaboard into
Washington D.C. It continues up the seaboard from Washington D.C. all the
way to New Brunswick, Canada, hitting many major U.S. source cities along
the way, such as New York City and Boston.
Interstate 5 - Runs from San Diego, California, north through California,
hitting Sacramento along the way. It continues all the way up the west
coast, through Portland, Oregon and Seattle Washington, into Vancouver,
British Columbia, Canada.
Interstate 15 - Runs from San Bernadino, California north through Las
Vegas, Nevada, Salt Lake City, Utah, Idaho and Montana to the Canadian
border. Interstate 35 - Runs from Laredo, Texas north through Dallas/Ft.
Worth, then on through Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and intersects with the
Kansas Turnpike in Witchita.
Some traffickers are getting smarter about using secondary routes of travel.
Some of the secondary routes include.
Interstate 25 - Runs from southern New Mexico north to Montana. Intersects
I-40, I-70, I-80 and I-90.
Interstate 135 - Runs from the Kansas Turnpike north to I-70.
Interstate 55 - Runs from approximately Baton Rouge, Louisiana north
through Jackson, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee, St. Louis, Missouri and
Springfield, Illinois. It then continues on into Chicago, Illinois. It
intersects many major interstates along the way.
Interstate 75 - Runs from Ft. Myers, Florida north to Atlanta, Georgia. It
continues northward, intersecting many major interstates, until it reaches
Cincinnati, Ohio, then Toledo, Ohio, and finally it makes its way into
Detroit, Michigan, then on to the Canadian border.
There are numerous interstates and highways that drug traffickers use, but
these seem to be the most common, most likely because they're the largest and
most heavily traveled. Remember, traffickers like to make as fast a trip as
possible. If your patrol area contains part of an interstate or major highway, a
drug checkpoint or a drug interdiction program may benefit your community and
your department. Even if your interstate or highway is not considered a
"major" travel route, you may want to test run an interdiction effort
to see what comes about, especially now that Law Enforcement is becoming more
aware of the major drug routes, and traffickers are changing to less traveled,
non-major interstates and highways. Interstate 44, which runs through our neck
of the woods, is really a very short interstate compared to most, but we still
make thousands of drug arrests and drug and money seizures every year. You could
Another thing to think about are the drugs coming into the US from Canada.
Some of the "best" Marijuana with high THC levels is coming from
Canada into the USA. All the adjoining states should be watched closely for drug
traffickers coming from Canada. A few months ago it was reported that Heroin was
coming from Canada going to Detroit, Michigan. This is just one example, and if
your area of jurisdiction includes a highway or interstate coming out of Canada,
you could have some big busts ahead of you.
Many of the miscellaneous hiding places
discussed at the end of chapter 6 are also excellent hiding places for user
amounts. Some of the information in this chapter reiterates the information
found in Hiding Compartments but some does not, and much of it pertains to
Inside film canisters, underneath the rubber cover on stick shifts, inside
perfume bottles (liquid meth), inside fingernail polish bottles (they use the
brush to put the drugs under their nose), on the sun visor; panels can be
removed with two screws and the inside is filled with foam rubber that can taken
out for drug hiding. Underneath the horn cover (most just pop off), in air bag
compartments if the air bag has been removed or has gone off and never been
repacked. This leaves an excellent hiding place for small amounts. Thermos
bottles can be used for hiding drugs in and still have coffee or some type of
liquid in them, but the drugs have to be in a sealed bag. Use your flashlight to
look inside the thermos. The inner sole of shoes (they should pull up freely),
inside the heels of shoes, inside stash cans (a list of these are included in
the back of this book). Be sure to look closely at the cigarette lighters in
cars. If it has a hole in the end, pull it out for examination. Companies now
make small pipes that look exactly like a car cigarette lighter and fit into the
space for your car lighter as well. Definitely check the lighter if you see a
real one laying up in the dash or anywhere in the car. Anytime you see a cigar
laying around in the car, check it as well. The inside of the cigar could be
packed with marijuana instead of tobacco. These are called "blunts"
and they are popular with African American drug users. Check all packs of
cigarettes for an odd looking cigarette. It's actually a pipe made to look like
a cigarette. It's the same length, white and is painted to look like it has a
filter on the end. These are relatively easy to spot, as both ends have holes in
them for smoking. Also be sure to check all packs for marijuana joints, which
can be shorter than normal cigarettes and undetectable at a glance, as well as
for drugs stuffed down inside the pack and in the cellophane wrapping on the
outside. The majority of the time drug users will use the boxed cigarette packs,
not the soft packs.
On one search the only thing that was found was a small amount of marijuana
and a couple hundred empty Marlboro packs indicating that the person may have
been a drug dealer, using the empty packs to sell marijuana joints in.
Earlier in this book we discussed marijuana being hidden in dog food bags.
This is also a good place for offenders to hide user amounts of marijuana and
powdered drugs. If you see a person traveling with a dog and a bag of dog food,
check the bag of food. You will probably want to dump the food into a container
to really check thoroughly. Depending on the type of drugs, a large amount could
be concealed in the bag. If there is a K-9 carrying crate in the vehicle, be
sure to check underneath the crate and check the crate itself for a false floor.
Look closely at it to see if the inside floor is higher than the bottom on the
outside. If you try to work your dog around a crate, you will probably not get a
typical alert, especially if the crate contains a dog at the time. Remember,
hiding places for user amounts are only limited to the offenders imagination and
The following are physical and
psychological indications of drug use. Most of these are quite easy to spot.
Sometimes marijuana use is harder to spot than other drugs, so descriptions have
been included with it's indicators.
Indications of Marijuana Use...
Very bloodshot eyes - Pronounced veins in the eyeballs.
Other Eye Indicators - No Nystagmus, pupil size normal or perhaps slightly
Body tremors - Shaking as they hand you their license, registration,
Odor of marijuana in the vehicle - It will smell sweet, with a slightly
Disorientation - Unable to tell you where they are exactly, where they've
been and/or where they're going. May also have time distortions, thinking it
has been longer since an event than it actually has. (For example, they say
they just left their friends house right down the street about 30 minutes
Relaxed inhibitions - This may fool you at first, because they seem so
calm, but very few people are completely calm when being stopped for a
violation. They may be very conversational with you.
Difficulty in dividing or giving attention - They may have a hard time
following their own story or listening to exactly what you tell them to do.
They may have a hard time answering questions asked while they are
retrieving their license and registration or performing other tasks for you.
Dry Mouth - Unable to wet lips, causing the constant licking of lips. May
cause them to mispronounce words or slur speech.
Indications of Cocaine (and Crack Cocaine) Use...
Perspiration and body odor
Itching of the skin
Quick, animated movements, inability to sit still
Sensitive to sound
Time and distance disorientation
Runny nose, walls of nostrils pale yellow
Injection sites on arms and/or hands
Indicators of Heroin Use...
Unable to feel pain
Slow physical movements and reflexes
Constricted pupils, slow reaction to light
Blue discoloration of skin
Lowered body temperature, cold skin
Goose bumps on skin
Low, raspy speech
Heavy, deep breathing
Loss of concentration
Indicators of Methamphetamine Use...
Very awake and alert
Eye indicators: No nystagmus, pupils noticeably dilated
Strong body odor
Dark circles under eyes, indicating lack of sleep
May be delusional or psychotic
Euphoria and exhilaration
Redness to nasal area
Indicators of Hallucinogen Use...
Lack of coordination
Eye Indications: No nystagmus, pupils noticeably dilated.
Incomplete verbal responses
Possibly violent and combative
Indicators of Inhalant Use...
Residue of substance on face, hands and/or clothing
Eye indicators - horizontal gaze, nystagmus usually will be present,
vertical nystagmus may be present, pupil size generally normal
Indicators of specific drug use are often hard to discern because so many of
the symptoms for different drugs are alike. But, because your job is to take all
illegal drugs off the streets, figuring out the exact drug being used is not so
important. However, it is important when it comes to the safety of you or your
dog. A dog getting a small amount of marijuana in its mouth will not hurt it,
and definitely not kill it. But, a small amount of any other drug could be
deadly to your dog and even you. Plus, knowing what type of drugs a person is
on, tells you whether to be on your guard for possible violent or psychotic
These next few hidden compartments I'll
discuss can be used to hide user amounts, and in many cases larger amounts of
drugs. Especially if you're talking about any type of powdered drug, as you can
fit more of it in a smaller area. Typically, anything can become a hiding place
for the ingenious drug trafficker, but these are some of the most common, most
Many times a K-9 will alert to an area
of a vehicle or home and the Officer will pass it off as residual odor and not
perform a thorough search. I cannot stress enough the importance of trusting
your dog every time he alerts! You'll see what I mean after reading about these
creative hiding places.
Inside radios, cassette tapes and
players, battery chargers, electric and hand-held tire pumps, flash lights,
thermos bottles and inside ice chests (they will often remove the inside of the
ice chest, place their drugs, then put the inside back in. See if you can pull
the inside out of ice chests to check for this.) Lipstick tubes, powder
compacts, cigarette cases, cigarette packs, CD cases, shoe heels (they swivel),
inside shoes and boots (the sole is removable), books with pages cut out,
musical instrument cases (big hiding place for band members) and even inside the
instruments themselves. Dummy pagers (they are worn on the belt, but are not
workable, serving only as a hiding spot), pillows, hat bands, ball point pens
and inside loaves of bread that the interior has been carved out of (Most K-9
handlers will pull their K-9's away from food. (Before you pull him away, see if
he's going to alert on the food, or just sniff it.) Baby bottles, under babies
in the baby seat, baby bottles, in the lining of suitcases and purses, film
containers (this is a BIG one), cameras (Most Officers are reluctant to open
cameras with film in them for fear of exposing the film and finding nothing.
Find some place dark to check the camera and just feel around the inside without
touching it. If you're using a K-9, lay the camera on the ground and then run
the dog past it to check.) Video cameras and video tapes also serve as excellent
One big hiding place is inside sex toys.
Seriously. These drug traffickers will try to think of the thing you don't want
to touch or go through the most, and that's where they'll hide it. There's
probably big loads of drugs going across country right now under 2 feet of cow
dung. Anyway, one time I was assisting a Sheriff who was searching a woman's
belongings looking for more cocaine (she had already given up some). In one of
the suitcases, wrapped in a towel was an 18 inch long vibrator (dildo,
stimulation device, whatever you wish to call it). Well, I didn't find any
drugs, and I didn't handle the device except with the towel. But, wanting to see
his reaction, I went over to my Sheriff friend and told him there were more
drugs in the suitcase. He asked where at, and when I told him they were in
the...ummm, device. He told me in no certain terms that they would stay there.
It was funny pulling this little joke on my friend, but really, what better
place to hide drugs. Places such as these should be checked just as any other
possible hiding place. That's what they make rubber "snappy" gloves
If you are searching a private
residence, there are literally hundreds of places drugs could be hidden. Be sure
to check under all couch and chair cushions and mattresses, in drawers, cabinets
(especially out of the way or hard-to-access cabinets), inside metal tins and
kitchen canisters, cigar boxes, jewelry boxes and the like. Also check behind
the bottom plate on refrigerators and behind wall paneling. Most of these places
you probably already know, but also check...
Anything that can hollowed out, such as
the handles of garden tools, shovels, etc., wooden fence posts or fire place
wood, and yard ornaments made of cement. Computer cases (be very careful
checking these), the bases of lamps and decorative statues, and in cans that
serve only for the hiding of items, such as "stash cans". These cans
will look like name brand products. They can be shaving cream, hairspray, spray
paint, oil, beer or soda cans. Most of the time they will even dispense the
proper product and be actual working cans. You can test the bottoms and tops of
these with a quick twist to see if they screw off (be sure to try and turn in
both directions as many have been made with the threads backwards). Any time you
find a can laying around a car, be sure to test it, you may be surprised at what
My friend, there is no end to the hiding
places you will find drugs in. When you search, do so with the intention of
finding drugs. If you have reason enough to start a search, then do a thorough
job of it.
I have seen many times, trucks, trailers
and autos stacked full of luggage and other items, a K-9 gave a good alert, yet
because of the enormous amount of work involved, the Officers did not do a good
Here's one more story about an
incomplete search. A Trooper was helping out at a drug checkpoint and an auto
came off the highway, trying to avoid the checkpoint they thought was just ahead
on the highway they were traveling (of course, they ran right into the middle of
it, which is the beauty of setting up checkpoints). There was reasonable
suspicion, of course, since the person was obviously trying to avoid them by
exiting the highway, so the Trooper asked for consent to search. It was refused,
so the K-9 was walked around the vehicle and gave a positive alert. The people
were mad as all get-out and did not want their car or belongings searched.
Because of the K-9's alert, the Trooper had probable cause to search for drugs.
Now, the woman in the car had her purse in the trunk of the auto which was being
half-heartedly searched by the Trooper. The woman walked up, grabbed her purse
and headed for the inside of the auto with it. The Trooper tried to grab it
back, thinking she may have a gun. She pulled back on the purse, shoved the
Trooper and a Deputy stepped in to help restrain her. She elbowed the Deputy and
again struck the Trooper in the chest. BIG mistake on her part as she was
assaulting an Officer of the Law. She was handcuffed and then the purse was
searched. Nothing was found in it, and since nothing had been found in the auto
or in the trunk, the Trooper was pretty shook up over the whole incident. He
called his superior Officer out to find out what he should do, as they had
nothing on the people except refusal to consent to search and assaulting the
Officer. The woman was a college professor from a large university and the
Troopers new some heck was going to be raised about it all. The Trooper needed
something to get himself out of hot water with his superiors as well as
something to help avoid a law suit with these people. They forgot all about
searching the auto more, and were trying to figure out what they could do to
quiet this whole situation down. At the time I was talking to a good friend of
mine, a Deputy Sheriff working the checkpoint, about all of the commotion. I
told him that they had not made a thorough search of the vehicle and that these
people had come up the ramp, trying to avoid the checkpoint for a reason, and
the Troopers needed to find out why. I asked him to go tell the Troopers to
search the auto again with a fine-toothed comb to find out what these people
where hiding. The Troopers listened to the Deputy and everything set out on the
street. One Trooper happened to pick up a bag that was sitting behind the seat,
within reach of the driver. Guess what!? Two loaded hand guns were in the bag.
The Trooper was no longer in trouble, but would have been if they had not gone
back to do the second search. My friend, if you start a search, do a good job,
because if you don't find anything it may come back on you in the courts. Get
your reasonable suspicion (checkpoints are excellent ways to obtain this) before
you run a K-9 around the vehicle to get your probable cause to search, then
search until you find something, or until you know for a fact there is nothing
TYPES OF VEHICLES - Traffickers seem to prefer mid to full size vehicles.
These include the Ford Taurus, Oldsmobile Cutlass, Pontiac Grand Am and
Lincoln Town Car. Other frequently used cars are the Chevy Camaro, Chevy
Lumina, Dodge Intrepid, Honda Accord, Cadillic DeVille and Toyota Camry.
Pickup trucks and vans, whether they have a camper shell or not are used
repeatedly for drug trafficking and money transportation. Keep your eye out
for the Chevy Silverado, Dodge Ram and Ford F-150. Traffickers will almost
always use rented or third party vehicles. Rarely is the authorized renter
or owner of the vehicle present.
TINTED WINDOWS OR SUNROOFS - these are used so Officers cannot see inside
the auto. Most traffickers know the Law uses indicators to catch them and
they don't want to make your job easy.
OPEN WINDOWS OR SUNROOFS IN EXTREME WEATHER - most people do not ride with
the windows down when it's extremely cold out unless they are trying to air
out a vehicle. If there is a large load in the trunk, an enclosed auto will
trap all the odor, letting it out only when the driver rolls down the window
to speak with you. Many times the windows will be down because they just
finished smoking a joint. I've hauled 2 pounds of marijuana in my dog
training van before and I can smell it from time to time. I don't care for
the smell, and I don't want my dogs getting accustomed to the odor, so I
will open the windows and air it out. The same goes for drug traffickers and
EXCESSIVE MILEAGE ON LATE MODEL AUTOS - the average person puts
approximately 1,000 miles per month on a vehicle. Any more than this can
mean that drugs are being trafficked in it, whether the person says the car
belongs to him or not. Find out what they do for a living. Does it require
long distance travel? If the car is a rental however, excessive mileage is
not unusual, and it cannot be used as an indication. See below for rental
RENTAL CARS - many drugs are transported across the U.S. in rental cars.
It's becoming harder and harder to tell rental cars from normal ones at
first glance. Most companies no longer brazenly display their name across
the back bumper, due to the number of car jackings taking place. Instead,
most companies now place very small bar code stickers in the back, drivers
side windows. Look for this as your approaching the vehicle. Ask the driver
for his rental agreement (it should be carried in the car with them). If the
car is not rented in the drivers name, find out if the driver knows the name
the car is rented under. If he doesn't, it is a very good indication of drug
trafficking. If the driver can tell you who the car is rented too or if it's
rented to the driver himself, further investigation for other indicators
will be needed.
CARS PULLING SMALL U-HAUL TRAILERS - this has become popular just
recently. Most of the time, the traffickers will try to look like a family
on the move. If you come across this, look for characteristics of drug
traffickers in the driver and passengers, or conflicting stories of where
they're going, where they came from, etc... Traffickers also use the larger
U-Haul trucks many times, so keep your eyes open for these as well.
TELLTALE LICENSE PLATES - we discussed earlier a 30 year old man
trafficking with a 19 year old woman he had hired to make the trip with him.
This same character had license plates that said "FIXER". Fixer of
what? Needless to say, he wasn't a TV repair man or mechanic! Amazingly
enough, some of these drug runners have been doing it for so long without
getting caught that they become brazen enough to display these types of
indicators. Look closely at personalized plates, they can tell a lot about
CAR-TOP LUGGAGE CARRIERS - many traffickers will use luggage carriers on
top of the car in the hope that drug dogs will not smell the drugs up high
(and they're right, if the K-9 has not been trained to search high). Phelps
County Missouri got 60 pounds out of a car-top luggage carrier. Many times
there will be no luggage or bags in the back seat of the car, which is
unusual for true travelers.
BACK END OF AUTO SITTING TOO LOW - this is an excellent indicator of drug
trafficking autos. When you're transporting hundreds of pounds of drugs in
the trunk, it tends to load the auto down, causing it to sit low in the
rear. Ask them what's in the trunk causing it to sit so low. Much can be
gleaned from their answer, as they may not even realize it's sitting low and
will be surprised when questioned about it.
BACK END OF AUTO SITTING TOO HIGH - air shocks will cause a vehicle to sit
higher than it normally should. Usually, the only vehicles that have air
shocks should be on are those that have trailer hitches or 5th wheels. Air
shocks are used on other vehicles to compensate for weighted down trunks or
pickup beds. Many times, the trafficker will pump up the shocks too much
trying to compensate for a heavy load, causing the car to sit higher than it
UN-NEEDED AIR SHOCKS - if the car your stopping is not sitting unusually
high, still check for air shocks as you approach the vehicle. The car could
contain a load and the air shocks could be pumped up accordingly, leaving
the vehicle looking normal. If you see air shocks on a vehicle that has no
trailer hitch and looks as if it's sitting normally, then something is
weighing down on those shocks. Definitely question the driver about it and
possibly ask for consent to search.
LOOSE OR NEW PANELING IN OLDER VANS AND BOX TRUCKS - if you see this
indication, check for the following as well...
NEW SCREWS IN PANELING OR SCREWS MISSING - this indicates that paneling
has been removed for some reason, quite possibly to hide a load of drugs.
Look for this on floor and door panels, trunks and running boards as well.
This can also indicate a false wall in a box truck. Use your measuring tape
for inside and outside dimensions to see if they add up.
OLD REFRIGERATORS OR DEEP FREEZES IN THE BACK OF PICKUPS - almost always
these will be tied shut. Meat salesmen will often have these deep freezes,
but they won't be tied shut.
WOODEN BOXES OR CRATES IN THE BACK OF PICKUPS - these will also be tied
shut almost every time if they contain a load of drugs. If they are metal
they will be welded shut and the entrance on the bottom or towards the front
of the truck.
Some of the largest loads of drugs have
been seized off of semi trucks and trailers. First I'll give you a few
statistics. The average marijuana load seized from tractor-trailers is around
1,000 pounds. The average cocaine seizure is around 900 pounds and the average
currency seizure is around $400,000. It's been found that approximately 75% of
all drugs entering the United States are coming in through the southwest borders
of Texas and Arizona and 70% of that is being carried in tractor-trailers.
Approximately 60% of the drivers are Hispanic, 30% Caucasian, 5%
African-American and 5% are other nationalities. The majority of the time,
Peterbilt trucks are preferred over Kenworth for hauling illegal drugs in. This
is due to the fact that Peterbilt trucks can be custom-ordered to the buyers
specifications. The only thing the manufacturers control is the frame of the
truck, the suspension system and all the sheet metal or aluminum work on the
vehicle. Peterbilt tractors do not use sheet metal, instead they opt for the
lighter weight materials such as aluminum and fiberglass. The typical
tractor-trailer hauling drugs will probably be a late model, heavily equipped
with customization features and rigged for all-weather long hauls (i.e.
Oversized fuel tanks, sleeper compartment, etc.) This doesn't mean you should
ignore other makes of tractor-trailers, only that you should pay special
attention to these types. It costs around $170,000 for a typical
tractor/refrigerated trailer with a 63" sleeper cabin. A 30% down payment
is required before production will even start. For owner/operator rigs, there
should be some logical source of income that could account for being able to put
out such a large sum of money.
Many time commercial carriers running
drugs will spend a long amount of time (3 days or more) at one location, such as
a hotel or truck stop, waiting for their load of drugs to arrive from the
storage site. Most of the time the drugs will arrive in smaller trucks and be
packaged in cardboard boxes. If you see a semi-truck staying at one place for an
extended amount of time, you may want to keep your eye on him/her.
Here are some indications of a
commercial carrier who's hauling drugs:
Owner/Operator rigs - not affiliated with a large trucking fleet, normally
operated by two males.
Driver/Passenger have criminal records - pay special attention if they
have been previously arrested on drug charges!
Older trucks/trailers - normally used in cases where the ONLY thing the
truck hauls is drugs, never hauling any legitimate loads.
Fraudulent or lack of adequate documentation
No consignee or fictitious consignee - if they have a consignee and you are
suspicious, call the consignee to verify the load.
Most commonly from New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Florida, Texas, Arizona
Light and or inexpensive cargo - this allows the driver to unload the rig
by hand (if they are also carrying a legitimate load) without the risk of
detection from backing into a commercial off-load site.
Usually coming from and headed to cities with large populations - if the
rig is headed from one small town to another, in all probability it is not
The driver should always provide the following paperwork for inspection:
Bill of Lading (cargo and destination)
Commercial Driver's License (CDL)
Log Book (drivers involved with trafficking will keep two log books, one
for the police if stopped and the second for the trafficking organization.)
Loads being carried by drug traffickers are not normally cost effective.
Usually, your typical driver will not, under any circumstances, haul their
trailer empty, one way, to pick up an inexpensive load, but traffickers
will. Most of the seizures made involved a cargo of produce/perishable
goods. A load of produce is very inexpensive and if the load is lost or
seized there is not a large amount on money lost by the trafficker. Also,
rigs that haul produce are exempt from many of the permits required by rigs
that haul heavy equipment or hazardous material. Traffickers believe that
Officers will not readily search the inside of a trailer hauling produce, as
they do not want to assume liability if the perishable produce is ultimately
Most often the drivers are Latin, either Columbians, Cubans, Puerto Ricans or
Mexicans. If the driver is Columbian, Cuban or Puerto Rican, the load is
probably cocaine. Mexican drivers are more likely to transport marijuana and in
some cases heroin. Even though the majority (97%) of trafficking incidents with
commercial carriers were unarmed confrontations, most drivers should be regarded
as carrying weapons of some type. Even legitimate commercial carriers normally
carry protection of some type in their rig.
This section includes physical
indicators you will see in the car as well as verbal and physical indications of
the traffickers themselves. First we'll address the former.
RADAR DETECTORS - you don't see too many traffickers using this method, as
most do not plan on speeding. But when you do see one, you will normally see
tinted windows and a CB as well. These are the serious traffickers that have
made a living running drugs for quite awhile.
CB RADIOS - you will see this a lot as traffickers like using them to
listen to truck drivers, who pretty much know where the Law is at. Many will
tire of hearing the chatter on their CB's and will turn them off. That's
when they get caught at checkpoints. There have been many caught at
checkpoints who had their CB's off. If they hadn't, then they would have
known about the checkpoint, because the truck drivers see the signs and talk
about it. I timed it one time on I-44 in Missouri and I-40 in Tennessee. No
less than every 8 minutes you'd hear a truck driver telling his buddies how
to avoid the drug checkpoint.
PAGERS - you can't see a pager from the highway, but after the stop is
made, look to see if there is one present anywhere in the car. Ask the
driver about his job and what it is he does. See if the pager might fit into
his work. If the person is unemployed, the pager should be very suspect.
Most traffickers will not connect your questions with their pager. If his
job does not require one or if he is unemployed, ask him point blank why he
has one. You can get a reaction here, because if it's drug related, there
will probably be some stammering and lying. If you get consent to search,
look at the numbers on the pager. If it doesn't contain any full numbers,
but just code numbers, then definitely be sure to do a thorough search.
Also, if you make an arrest, you can use the pager to find out what numbers
have been sent to it and from where. His connections will be recorded. This
could be evidence for you in court, if you make a follow up arrest.
I will add here some information that most departments like. Where the big
money comes from is with the follow up arrest. In most cases, the mules (or
traffickers) only have enough money to travel with and will not get paid
until the end of the delivery. Some times the mules will also deliver the
money back to the supplier. Do a follow up on every case that you can.
CELLULAR PHONES - if you see this, the question should be the same as with
a pager...what is this guy doing with a cellular phone. Does he fit the
type? A large majority of drug traffickers have a phone with because they're
supposed to call their connection, report their location and let them know
everything is OK. They will have a set time to do the calling. If you're
going to be doing a follow up, it's very important that you find out if the
mule was supposed to make any calls to the connection. This point is
illustrated well here...In one bust made, the mule had appointed times he
was to call his connection to let them know all was OK. He would travel
evenings and nights, from 7pm to 7am and would sleep through the morning.
His call in times where 7am before he went to bed, 2pm when he got up, and
then 7 pm again that night before he hit the road. He got arrested around
noon one day and was trying to roll for the department. But in processing
the case, the guy was not allowed to call his contact at the 2pm time and
when he called late, they refused the load suspecting something was wrong.
The follow up case was lost because someone did not understand the
importance of those phone calls. The contacts felt it was better to lose a
load of drugs than go to jail. Always find out what your arrested trafficker
is supposed to be doing if you plan on making a follow up.
If for some reason the mule won't roll, you can hit redial on the cellular
phone and it will ring the last number called. Some traffickers will even
store the frequently called numbers in the phones memory. Get these numbers
and find out where they are located. Again, this could be evidence for you
in court if you do have a follow up case.
Now we will discuss verbal and physical
clues the trafficker may give. These clues indicate deception of some sort on
their part. It is best to have the subject standing to properly assess these
Lack of Eye Contact
Putting Hands in Pockets
Wiping Face Constantly
Running Hands Through Hair
Overall Body Shaking
Constant Shifting of Body Weight From One Foot to the Other
As you walk up to a vehicle and begin to
question the driver, have your nose be on alert for strong or heavy odors coming
from the car. These odors are called masking odors. Most all drug offenders,
whether they're using drugs or trafficking them, use masking odors. These are
odors used to cover up the overwhelming scent of drugs. With drug users, it's an
attempt to cover up the scent escaping the car as you approach. With drug
runners, it's normally an attempt to fool drug dogs. While a dogs nose is able
to "see" through these odors, as a human, all you can do is use them
as an indication of illegal activity. If you smell any of these, further
investigation may be needed.
Here is a list of commonly used masking
odors. These are also some of the strongest and easiest for you to detect.
FABRIC SOFTENER - will be wrapped around the illegal drugs, especially
marijuana, to hide the odor.
TALCUM POWDER - normally sprinkled around the drug packages. Use caution
here, as what looks like talcum powder could be a chemical that will ruin
your K-9 or even you!
RED OR BLACK PEPPER - usually scattered all over the floor and around the
drugs. They are trying to shut down the K-9's nose and cover the odor at the
same time. While it may burn your K-9's nose, it will not hide the scent of
drugs from him.
RED PEPPERS - one time I helped search a semi-truck that had peppers
scattered all over it. Unfortunately, the drugs had been delivered just
before the truck was stopped, but the red peppers alerted the Officers that
this was a drug runner so they could watch for him on later dates. Just
recently on I-44, 6,500 pounds of marijuana was seized from a semi-trailer
that had red peppers scattered all over the top of the load.
COFFEE - this is one used in mostly small amounts unless you're dealing
with a commercial carrier. The drugs will be wrapped and inside a 2 pound
coffee can. Dogs trained with coffee as a masking odor will still alert on
the drug odor coming from these containers.
ORANGES - sometimes oranges will be used. If you find a case or large
amount of oranges in the trunk of an auto, look farther as they could also
have drugs hidden in with them.
BARS OF BATH SOAP OR BOXES OF DISH SOAP - often times liquid soap will be
placed between layers of plastic wrapped around bundled drugs. Check inside
boxes of powered soap.
PERFUMES - poured around where the drugs are located. Look in these places
INCENSE - Roane County Tennessee got 1,100 pounds of marijuana that was
packed in with candles and incense.
DETERGENTS - this will be in the outer wrappings of packages of drugs.
GREASE - this will be mostly in packages that are wrapped with several
layers of plastic wrap. A coat of grease is added in between the layers.
Again, this does not hide the scent from K-9's.
CEDAR SHAVINGS - I have not seen much of this, but if you get a truck with
a load of cedar in the back, dig through it some or run a dog around it, as
this would be a great place to conceal drugs due to the strong odor.
BAGS OF DOG FOOD - this can be used as a masking odor and the bags
themselves act as a good hiding place. A department locally made a raid on a
dealers farm home. They searched to no avail in the barns, house and out
buildings. No drugs were found. Then one of the Officers opened up the
refrigerator to search. On the bottom shelf was a 5 lb bag of dog food, but
it wasn't the kind that was supposed to be refrigerated, it was just
pellets. He opened it up and inside, with dog food, found tightly packed
marijuana. Then the bells went off, because in the barn there were several
bags of dog food. After a second look at the bags in the barn, they came
away with close to a ton of marijuana. It would never had been found if that
one Officer hadn't decided to look closer at that first bag. If you find
bags of dogfood in a car and there's no dog present, or even if there is,
you may want to look a little closer.
MOTHBALLS - very strong, chemical odor. For those that do not know,
mothballs are used in storage closets to keep moths away from clothing.
There is no reason this smell should be present in a car. Smell a package of
mothballs the next time you go to the store so you can recognize this odor
if you come across it.
CARPET FRESHENERS - again, a very strong odor. You may still be able to
see the white powder from it scattered on the floor and/or seats of a
LETTUCE, CABBAGE, CELERY, ONIONS - coming from the southern and western
states are semi-truck loads of drugs hidden in with these vegetables. Many
of the loads do contain good vegetables, but in most cases the drug runners
will buy a bunch of spoiled vegetables, as they dispose of the cover load
after the drug load is delivered. The drugs will be buried under this
produce and some may even have crates with ice on top. Most Officers will
not crawl back into a load like this as they don't want to soil their
uniforms, and most of these loads are kept very cold with reefer units,
making it a very uncomfortable search. Drug traffickers know this and
HANGING AIR FRESHENERS - this is a big one. Almost every drug dealer and
user will have air fresheners hanging from their rear-view mirror or just
around the car somewhere. Many times they will have more than one and
normally the pine scented, pine tree shaped fresheners are most common. One
Officer I know says this is a "felony forest" when he sees more
than one hanging up. It's a good indicator to watch for, even as you drive
your patrol route.
ETHER/AMMONIA - both of these can shut down a dogs nose, but cannot cover
up the scent of drugs. If a dog gets a nose full of either of these he will
start sneezing and coughing. It burns his nose. If you smell either of
these, I suggest not working your dog on it unless it's a "have
to" case. If this happens with your dog, put him up and make a complete
search of the vehicle.