Cat Nabbed While Sneaking Contraband Into Prison


The headline is true, someone actually tried to use a cat to sneak illegal items into a Brazilian prison. Prison guards noticed the white feline as it ran through the main gate of the prison facility. The guards noticed some items that had been attached to the cat’s mid-section, so the guards decided to conduct an investigative detention and caught the animal. Upon closer inspection, the guards found that someone had taped a cell phone, drill bits, saw blades, an earphone, a memory card, batteries and a phone charger to the cat. The police are obviously investigating the incident, and every prison inmate is a suspect.

What is “Contraband?”

Many people are wondering what is “contraband.” In this context, contraband is the possession of an item that is either not permitted on prison property or not permitted in the prison facility. Contraband includes some things that are already illegal, such as marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs. In Pennsylvania, under section 5123 of the Crimes Code, the possession of drugs on prison property is a felony charge of Contraband and subjects the person to a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years incarceration. Prison guards are permitted to conduct random searches of vehicles entering onto prison property, and the guards often use drug-sniffing dogs to assist in the detection of illegal drugs.

I have represented a few clients over the years that traveled to visit inmates at State Correctional Institutions like Rockview or Huntingdon and had forgotten about some marijuana that was in their vehicle. Unfortunately for the clients, they were subjected to random searches of their cars, and the searches led to the discovery of less than 30 grams of marijuana. If the clients had not possessed on prison property, the clients would have faced a charge of Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana with a maximum sentence of 30 days incarceration and a $500.00 fine. However, if even a small amount of marijuana is found on prison property, the charge is a second degree felony charge of Contraband and punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a $25,000.00 fine.

Legal Items Can Be “Contraband”

The charge of Contraband also prohibits some items that are generally legally possessed to be taken into a prison. Obviously, people are not permitted to take weapons into a prison, but many people wouldn’t realize that taking a cellphone  into a prison can also result in a Contraband charge. While people may not know in advance what constitutes “contraband,” correctional facilities like Rockview post numerous and very noticeable signs that warn visitors about what items are not permitted on prison property, and I believe that the signs also warn of the random searches of vehicles.

What can you learn from this article? If you are visiting someone at a state correctional facility or county prison, leave the illegal drugs at home and make sure that you leave the cell phone in the car. The next thing to learn is that the possession of drugs, whether on state prison property or at a state university like Penn State, is a criminal offense, for which you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Jason S. Dunkle has been a criminal defense lawyer since 2004 and represented hundreds of clients charged with both felony and misdemeanor drug offenses. You can review some of Attorney Dunkle’s success stories here.