Extracts from the article, THE DRUG COURIER PROFILE, by CHARLES L. BECTON, North Carolina Law Review MARCH, 1987, 65 N.C.L. Rev. 417
The following discussion presents a list of factors categorized under seven topical headings: (1) Reservations and Ticket Purchases; (2) Airports and Flights; (3) Nervousness and Associated Behavior; (4) Significance of Luggage; (5) Companions (Traveled With or Picked Up By); (6) Personal Characteristics; and (7) Miscellany.
DEA agents, without regard to consistency, have testified that the factors discussed under these topical headings form part of the bases on which they decide to detain air travelers. . . .
1. Reservations and Ticket Purchases --
In many cases drug agents testify without hesitation that drug couriers seldom make reservations, and that couriers instead prefer to purchase their airline tickets immediately before flight departure time. With no less resolve drug agents testify also that drug couriers often make recent or short-notice reservations. . . .
2. Airports and Flights --
When DEA agents first developed the drug courier profile, the "source city" designation became a preeminent profile factor. Drug agents routinely monitored incoming flights from source cities. . . . With little regard for consistency, DEA agents testify that each of the following constitutes a prominent profile factor: (1) Non-stop or direct flights to and from source cities; and (2) Circuitous routes or changing airlines or flights to and from source cities.
3. Nervousness and Associated Behavior --
Despite drug agents' testimony that they can detect "growing nervousness" or tell-tale eyes, there is no uniform or coherent list of profile factors relating to nervousness. Walking quickly is considered a prime behavior factor, but so is walking slowly. Walking in an unusual pattern through the terminal and rushing to the restroom after deplaning appear just as significant as leaving the terminal in a hurried and nervous manner. . . .
4. Significance of Luggage --
All air travelers fit at least one of the profile factors regarding the use of luggage. DEA agents deem it significant when air travelers check no luggage. . . . Similarly, DEA agents testify inconsistently regarding the amount of luggage an air traveler carries. Carrying no luggage is as noteworthy as carrying a small tote bag, a medium-size bag, two bulky garment bags, "two apparently heavy-laden suitcases," or four pieces of luggage. . . .
6. Personal Characteristics --
Depending on which case is read, a typical drug courier is either a black male, a female, a black female, an Hispanic person, or a young person who may be "sloppily dressed" or "smartly dressed." . . .
7. Miscellany --
. . . drug agents treat the following drug courier profile factors with equal significance: being the first, or one of the first, passengers to deplane; being the last passenger to deplane; and deplaning from the middle. By way of further example, making a local telephone call immediately after deplaning constitutes a profile factor, as does making a long-distance telephone call. Similarly, drug agents have testified that leaving the airport by public transportation, especially taxi, private vehicle, limousine, or hotel courtesy van all constitute profile factors.