I just had an IM conversation with a friend who's in his second year of law school. Not a lawyer yet, but more knowledgeable than me, at least!
me: here's his question. [I copied and pasted Slate's question]
Sent at 11:08 AM on Thursday
Friend: let me get back to you after class (20 min
Sent at 11:14 AM on Thursday
ok, so the quick and dirty answer is no
Friend: a crime has 2 components that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt
the actus reus (AR) and the mens rea (MR)
So, imagine the statute proscribes "knowingly transporting illegal controlled substances"
prosecutor has to prove 3 elements
of a substance
excuse me, of a controlled substance
which is illegal
at this point, prosecution has proven the AR. But he still has to prove the MR
In this case, the MR for each element is knowingly. so the prosecutor has to prove that the defendant knew he was transporting the parcel, knew the parcel contained a controlled substance, and knew that the substance was illegal
me: yeah, that's more or less what i expected. i knew a guy who was busted ordering marijuana online, and they didn't arrest the mailman or whatnot
Friend: yeah, no mens rea
As a side note, if you had opened up a box saying "jewelry" and discovered illegal substances, you'd be in trouble for opening the customer's box with no reasonable suspicion, right? Otherwise UPS would open all our stuff to check for drugs.