Beating a Case by Refusing a Package

Q: If I write “Return to Sender” on a package of steroids I ordered and leave it on the doorstep, can they still make a case against me?

A: This is a familiar scenario and follows up on last month’s column on privacy in the mail. Let’s say “Peter Pumper” orders anabolic steroids from an online source but later changes his mind (because he suspects that the package has been intercepted by law enforcement and that delivery would be a setup). He decides that if a letter carrier appears at his door, he will refuse the package. But if the package is left in his mailbox, he will write “Return to Sender” on it and leave it outside.

Meanwhile, postal inspectors (domestic) or customs officials (international) have flagged the suspicious parcel and confirmed that the package contains a sufficient quantity of contraband to justify expending federal resources (in lesser volumes, they might refer it to state or local authorities to see if they’re interested). They get a warrant signed by a judge to search Peter’s house and they schedule a “controlled delivery” (a federal agent dressed like a letter carrier delivers the parcel under team surveillance). The goal of controlled delivery is to get Peter to take possession of the package. Once he accepts it, he is in possession and the judge’s warrant to search his residence can be executed.

Signing for a package makes it hard to argue that it isn’t yours – especially when it’s supported by an undercover agent’s testimony about the conversation that took place.

“Are you Peter Pumper?”
“Here’s your package.”
“Thanks!” (taking the package into the house).

Can a case be made without a signature? Sure. The conversation we just described would be enough, even without a signature.

But what if you don’t take possession of the package at all? I’ve seen countless cases where the target gets a funky feeling about the delivery guy and rejects the package. The undercover agent will do everything possible to get the package into the target’s hands. If all else, fails, the agent will revert to a “knock and talk.” In one case I handled when the target refused the package the frustrated undercover agent abandoned his cover and simply flashed a badge. He summoned his partner, and the two asked to step inside to talk about the package. The target told them he had no interest in accepting the package and that they most certainly could not come into his house. The agents said the package contained suspected drugs and asked if they could open it. “Do what you want, I don’t want it.” They opened it, and inside were 500 Anabol tablets. “My mistake,” one agent said. “These are okay. You can import a personal use supply. Here, you can take them.” Nice try. The target told the agent to stick the tabs where the sun doesn’t shine and avoided a raid by the team of agents waiting just off the property.

Of course, even a refusal to physically take possession of the package isn’t always a free pass. In more significant trafficking cases, the agents have usually already built a case before the attempt at a controlled delivery. In some cases, there’s a snitch involved – that’s why packages to the target’s address were flagged in the first place. The agents will have examined postal records of past deliveries and may already have email or even banking records. In these types of cases, controlled delivery is the final piece of evidence sought, but there may be enough other evidence of steroid trafficking to make a case.

Be aware that in most cases, the target is not arrested at the time of the controlled delivery. Even if the agents search the house and find raw steroid powders, glassware, vials, ledgers, etc. – they usually leave with the evidence but without an arrest. They’ll bring the suspected steroids to the lab for testing and review the case with the assigned assistant U.S. attorney. When they leave, that’s usually when I get called. After getting the pertinent facts, I’ll reach out to the prosecutor in hopes of avoiding an indictment or arrest warrant.

Also, be aware that although being confronted by agents is intimidating, you have the right to tell them that you won’t talk to them without a lawyer. The less you say, the better. If you end up fighting the case, you’ll have limited evidence against you (confessions are damning). If you later look to cut a deal, you’ll have kept information that might be helpful to them until a time when you can negotiate something in return.

If you’re ever in a bad situation regarding steroids or any other criminal accusation, stay calm. My law firm is available 24/7 for emergencies at 516-294-0300. Save the number. And follow me on Instagram at RickCollinsEsq for news!


Rick Collins, JD, CSCS [] is the lawyer that members of the bodybuilding community and nutritional supplement industry turn to when they need legal help or representation. [© Rick Collins, 2020. All rights reserved. For informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal or medical advice. Previously published in Muscular Development magazine.]

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