Is It a Crime to Send Drugs Through the Mail?

In an age where you can order just about anything online and have it shipped to your door within a couple of days, most people don’t think anything about sending various items through the mail.

But what about medication? Is it ever okay to send your cousin some leftover antibiotics? What about some painkillers you don’t need anymore? If you live in a state where marijuana is legal, can you ship it to someone else in a different state? There are very serious consequences for sending certain substances through the mail, and people who break the law could face long-term consequences. If you have been charged with sending or receiving any kind of drug through the mail, you should speak with a federal defense lawyer, like John Helms, as soon as possible.

Illegal to Send Drugs Through the Mail

As the opioid crisis has grown increasingly serious, police and federal investigators have started focusing on drugs sent through the mail. Postal inspectors can screen packages to check for drugs like marijuana and other substances.

Some people may attempt to send drugs through the mail because they believe the Fourth Amendment protects them from having their packages searched. Typically, a postal worker isn’t permitted to open a package in order to see what’s inside and if the contents contain anything illegal. To be able to inspect a package, a postal worker or inspector must usually obtain a search warrant based on a reasonable suspicion that the package contains something illegal.

The U.S. postal service is part of the federal government, and it has an inspection service of its own that oversees packages. There are more than 200 federal laws that govern criminal conduct with respect to the postal service. An individual who violates these laws could face a felony charge.

However, there are differences between the federal postal service and private carriers like Fed Ex and UPS. In fact, private package companies have become sensitive to the increase in shipments that contain drugs and other illegal items. In 2013, UPS entered into a non-prosecution agreement and paid a $40 million fine for its alleged role in illegally shipping cigarettes that weren’t properly taxed.

It’s against the law to ship marijuana through the mail. It’s also against the law to mail other drugs like heroin and prescription drugs, even if the person sending the package had a valid prescription.

However, it’s not against the law for a properly licensed pharmaceutical company to mail a prescription medication as long as the recipient has a valid prescription from a doctor. In recent years, companies like online pharmacies and mail-order pharmacies have begun offering prescription services through the mail. As long as these companies are licensed and operating legally, they can mail drugs to people with a valid prescription.

Sending Marijuana Through the Mail

Over the past few years, a number of states have made marijuana legal. In some states, marijuana is legal for recreational as well as medical use. However, in other states marijuana is still only legal for medicinal purposes. Currently, marijuana for recreational use is legal in 10 states, while marijuana for medical use is legal in 33 states.

However, marijuana is still prohibited under federal law, which means it’s illegal to ship it from one state to another through the mail. Since the postal service is a federal agency, and because shipping marijuana from one state to another also involves interstate commerce, shipping marijuana falls under federal jurisdiction.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that there can be serious federal penalties for the person shipping the marijuana as well as the person who receives it. Any individual who engages in shipping marijuana across state laws could face criminal charges involving drug possession and even drug trafficking.  

According to one report, postal service inspectors seized over 37,000 pounds of marijuana in 2016 alone. Inspectors also seized $23.5 million in proceeds related to drug trafficking. Reports say that although it’s illegal to send marijuana and other drugs through the mail, the problem continues to increase. While postal service inspectors handle much of the screening and seizure of illegal drugs sent through the mail, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has also provided help as the problem has increased.

Help for Federal Mail Crimes

If you have been charged with sending a drug of any kind through the mail, it’s important to speak to a lawyer who handles federal cases. In some cases, a person may not realize that they weren’t permitted to ship drugs.

In cases involving federal law and the mail, it’s important to work with a lawyer who can help you understand your options. The penalties for federal crimes can be serious, and defending yourself in federal court can be an overwhelming experience. It’s best to work with a lawyer who understands federal law and has experience handling cases in federal court.


John Helms Federal Criminal Defense Attorney 

T: (214) 666-8010