Search and Seizure by the Numbers: The Drug Courier Profile and Judicial Review of Investigative Formulas
80 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2016
Date Written: 1985
The reasons for judicial mistrust of the drug courier profile are numerous and, I believe, compelling. Because many of the profile characteristics (e.g. nervousness, arrival from a source city, little or no luggage, cash purchase of ticket) are equally applicable to innocent persons, use of the profile by reviewing courts could lead to approval of wholesale seizures of innocent citizens by police. The accuracy of the profile has never been empirically validated, and profile characteristics appear to vary wildly from airport to airport and case to case, giving the profile a shifting, chameleon-like quality. One DEA agent candidly admitted that the profile consists of anything that happens to be suspicious in a particular case. Little wonder then, that the courts are reluctant to ascribe legal significance to the ever-changing profile characteristics, or to accept as binding a profile which was developed by the very law enforcement officials whose actions the courts are charged to review.
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