IN: A dog alert on a package wasn’t PC because it only proved the package could have been handled by somebody who might have used MJ legally

The state seized cash in a package for mailing for forfeiture and then sought to turn it over to the federal government. The owners sought to recover the cash. The court finds that the seizure of the cash was without probable cause because the dog alert conceivably proved nothing other than that a handler of the package could have used or handled marijuana even legally before the package was shipped. The money is ordered returned. Bowman v. State, 2017 Ind. App. LEXIS 349 (Aug. 16, 2017):

P10 The only evidence in the record supporting such a conclusion is as follows:

• The parcels were being shipped to California.
• The parcels were being sent to the same recipient.
• The parcels were heavily taped.
• The parcels were shipped priority overnight.
• A K-9 unit alerted to the two parcels.

We can easily dispense with the first four pieces of evidence. We are confident that a voluminous number of parcels meeting those criteria and having nothing to do with drug trafficking are shipped in this country every day. If all money shipped in heavily taped parcels mailed to California via priority overnight mail could be seized as proceeds of drug trafficking, many last-minute gift recipients at holiday and birthday time would be sorely disappointed (and surprised).

P11 So, we are left with the fact that a K-9 unit gave positive alerts on both parcels at issue. The very most that this fact means is that at some point, someone handling the parcels transferred an odor of controlled substances to them. It may have been Bowman and Maurry, who sent the parcels, or it may have been any number of individuals involved with the handling of the parcels in transit. And any of those individuals could conceivably have possessed and/or used the unidentified controlled substance either legally or illegally, with or without an intent to commit drug trafficking. But no controlled substances or evidence of controlled substances were actually found in the parcels, so there is simply no way to know.

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