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March 24, 1995


Appeal from Marshall Circuit Court. (CC-93-173). William Gullahorn, TRIAL JUDGE.

As Amended. Rule 39(k) Motion Denied May 5, 1995. Rehearing Denied May 5, 1995. Certiorari Denied September 22, 1995. Released for Publication March 2, 1996.

Taylor, Presiding Judge All The Judges Concur, Except Long, J., Who Recuses.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Taylor


This case is controlled entirely by the United States Supreme Court's interpretation of search and seizure law as set out in United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 104 S. Ct. 1652, 80 L.Ed.2d 85 (1984). The facts in this case are remarkably similar to those in Jacobsen, but the application of the principles of that case mandate a different outcome in this case.

The appellant, Mark Anthony Seeley, pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance (cocaine), a violation of § 13A-12-212, Code of Alabama 1975. He specifically reserved his right to appeal the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress certain evidence and was sentenced to seven years in the penitentiary. His sentence was split and he was ordered to serve 60 days in jail and to spend 3 years on supervised probation.

The state's evidence at the appellant's suppression hearing tended to show that on January 30, 1993, the Federal Express courier service office in Madison, Alabama, received a package addressed to the appellant bearing a return address in Dallas, Texas. Fred Kaufmann, the Federal Express operations manager in Madison, testified that they were unable to deliver the package because the courier had trouble finding the address and because the customer service agent was unable to contact the appellant by telephone. Apparently the telephone number that had been given as the appellant's was no longer in service.

Kaufmann testified that if Federal Express cannot resolve a delivery problem through research, then it is a company practice to open the package to see if any other delivery information can be found. Kaufmann testified that he opened the package. He testified that the package was about the size of a shoe box and that it was heavily wrapped in masking tape. Inside the package he found a tubular package wrapped in tape and packed in newspaper. Kaufmann testified that he smelled a strong odor similar to insecticide coming from the package. At that point he became suspicious and decided to call Officer Billy Ware, a narcotics officer with the Huntsville Police Department. He testified that he left the package in the same condition it was in until Ware arrived.

Ware testified that he arrived at the Federal Express office to inspect the package. Like Kaufmann, he testified that there was a strong odor of "bug spray." Ware testified that many substances are used to mask the smell of narcotics in packages--e.g., herbicide, gasoline, diesel fuel, fabric softener, and coffee. He then squeezed the tubular package and felt a powdery, granulated substance inside. Ware testified that he told Kaufmann that in his opinion the package contained narcotics. At that point, Ware called Officer Michael Posey of the Huntsville Police Department K-9 unit and asked him to bring his narcotics detection dog to the office. Before Posey arrived, Ware placed the tubular package in a metal electrical box on the wall in the southeast section of the warehouse portion of the office.

Posey testified that when he arrived, Ware instructed him to have the dog search the southeast section of the warehouse. Posey testified that the dog "alerted" in the area of the electrical box where the package was located. Posey testified that an "alert" occurs when the dog smells narcotics. He said that the dog's breathing pattern changes but that at that point the dog has not yet pinpointed the location. When the dog finds the strongest source of the odor it will scratch or bite at that location. Posey testified that his dog scratched on the electrical box where the package was located. At that time Posey pulled the dog off the search area and told Ware that there was a strong indication of narcotics in the electrical box where the package was hidden. Ware then retrieved the package from the electrical box.

Ware testified that he told Kaufmann that he was going to take the package to his office and he then signed a receipt for it. When Ware arrived at his office, he called the district attorney and explained how he came into possession of the package. After he talked with the district attorney Ware opened the package and performed a field test on the white powder contained inside. Ware testified that the test gave a positive indication for the presence of cocaine. Subsequent testing by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences proved that the powder was cocaine. He said that he then secured the package in his drug evidence locker.

On Monday, February 1, 1993, someone from Federal Express telephoned to tell Ware that the appellant had telephoned Federal Express and that he wanted his package delivered. Ware began making arrangements with the Marshall County Sheriff's Department for a controlled delivery. Ware testified that in preparation for the controlled delivery, he removed most of the cocaine powder from the package. He then mixed about 1.4 ounces of baking soda with two or three grams of the cocaine powder and put that mixture in the package. Also, Ware borrowed a van and a courier's uniform from Federal Express in order to make the delivery.

Ware telephoned the appellant on Monday and arranged to deliver the package on Tuesday, February 2, 1993, at a place in Marshall County near Guntersville. Ware met with three officers from the Marshall County Sheriff's Department's drug enforcement unit to execute the controlled delivery. These officers were Sonny Riddle, Paul Evans, and Martin Killion. Martin Killion wore the Federal Express uniform and drove the van to make the delivery while Ware, Riddle, and Evans waited nearby. Killion met the appellant at the designated location and delivered the package and the appellant signed for it, got in his car, and drove away. After the appellant had driven a few blocks, Ware, Riddle, and Evans stopped his car and arrested him. The package was recovered from the appellant.

The appellant contends on appeal that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the cocaine. More specifically, he contends that Ware's warrantless search and seizure of the package violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States ...

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