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10/23/03 US v. PERKINS, No. 02-15891 (11th Cir. October 22, 2003)
Suppression of verbal and physical evidence obtained during a traffic stop for the issuance of a traffic warning citation is affirmed where the circumstances do not give rise to reasonable suspicion justifying continued detention of defendants after the warning ticket had been issued http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/11th/0215891p.pdf
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 cover up.
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 increase.
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 operational.
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 probably bogus.
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 rear axle.
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 been cut.
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 Jacksonville, Florida.
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 too.
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 vehicle searches.
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 creativity.
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 dilated.
Body tremors – Shaking as they hand you their license, registration, etc…
Odor of marijuana in the vehicle – It will smell sweet, with a slightly burned odor.
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 ago.
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 behavior.
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 overlooked areas.
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 hiding places.
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 for.
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 you find.
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 search.
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 there.
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 users.
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 car indications.
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 the driver.
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 should.
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 and California.
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 trafficking drugs.
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 spoiled.
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 indications.
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 first.
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 vehicle.
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 utilize it.
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.