You may be visiting Nogales for the weekend when someone asks you for a ride back to Arizona after concocting a plausible story. You may be mixed up with a cartel and driving people over the border because those were your instructions. If a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent catches you, you face a litany of federal crimes with serious penalties.

There are defenses to human smuggling charges. When you are accused of a crime, it does not mean you are guilty. You have the constitutional right to a strong defense. The prosecutor understands they must prove all the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. A Mesa smuggling defense lawyer knows the laws surrounding this type of accusation. A skilled attorney could help you build a strong defense.

Types of Human Smuggling Crimes

The federal government has enacted all-encompassing human smuggling laws, codified under Title 8 of the United States Code, Section 1324. Alien smuggling is the most common crime occurring when someone knowingly brings or attempts to bring an alien into the U.S. by circumventing an official port of entry. If convicted, a person could face up to 10 years in federal prison, but if a person is injured, up to 20 years, and if an alien dies, they face the death penalty. Other crimes under Section 1324 include:

  • Knowingly transporting an illegal alien within the United States
  • Knowingly concealing or hiding an illegal alien from detection
  • Knowingly inducing an illegal alien to come illegally into the U.S.
  • Conspiracy to commit any smuggling crimes
  • Knowingly bringing an alien into the U.S. who has not been authorized to enter or live here
  • Knowingly employing at least ten illegal aliens in any 12 months
  • Knowingly paying a human smuggler to bring a person from a foreign country
  • Conspiracy to bring oneself into the United States

For the government to convict a person of a smuggling crime, the prosecutor must prove an individual knew they were furthering someone’s attempt to enter the country illegally or recklessly disregarded what they should have known to be true. A smuggling defense attorney in Mesa could help an individual understand the charges against them.

Many young men are duped into being alien smugglers. Anonymous people go onto Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram to recruit young men to pick up people from the border and give them a ride to Phoenix. Unbeknownst to these young men, they are being recruited for alien smuggling and are often arrested and charged with a felony offense. If you are not a U.S. citizen, pleading guilty to alien smuggling will lead not to deportation and a permanent bar from entering the U.S.

Defenses to Smuggling Charges

A lack of knowledge about someone’s immigration status can be a strong defense. If the government deports a person that could have been a witness with testimony favorable to a defendant before trial, they may have a defense under United States v. Valenzuela-Bernal, 458 U.S. 858 (1982). The Supreme Court decided the government must determine if an alien’s testimony would be helpful to the defendant before deporting the witness. If a Mesa defense attorney can show losing this witness tainted a smuggling case, the court may have to grant a dismissal.

Mere presence is not enough. This is a defense often used by taxi drivers or uber drivers when they pick up people they did not know had just crossed the border.  The smuggling must be in furtherance of the crime. Giving a ride to your undocumented aunt from her house to her job is not alien smuggling because it is not in furtherance of the crime. Defense counsel can negotiate a plea agreement that can avoid prison altogether and allow the person to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. For those that are not U.S. citizens, it will keep them eligible for a bond in immigration court and maintain their eligibility for immigration relief.

A Mesa Smuggling Defense Attorney and the Draw of a Free Country

Our attorneys understand the draw of a free country where everyone can prosper, having experienced immigration personally. Sometimes, crime and immigration intersect, and you will need assistance if it happens to you. Transporting, harboring, conspiring to smuggle, or employing undocumented immigrants are federal crimes.

By its Constitution, America gives you the right to fair representation and the chance to defend yourself, even if you took part in a crime. Humans make mistakes and should have the opportunity to atone for them. Together we can strategize for a favorable outcome in your situation. A Mesa smuggling defense lawyer has answers to your questions. Call today to learn more.

Client Testimonials

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Thanks to the entire Rocha team who made it possible to achieve the goal of acquiring residence in the United States, giving us more than a service, they gave us hope and confidence to move forward, despite the inconveniences caused by a pandemic, they managed to adapt to all the restrictions in a professional way and revealing his extensive work experience in the end, everything has been reflected in favorable results for us.
Jonatan, Maricela
March 30th, 2023
We hired Juan Rocha back in 2015 for my husband seeking help with his immigration process and I honestly think the process would have been faster if my previous lawyer wouldn't have made the mistakes that he did (fired him) and I hired Juan Rocha, It defiantly was a process but he got it done, thanks to him my husband was able to see his parents and family after 15 years a day that my husband and I will forever hold in our hearts. Juan has a very special way of expelling things and he makes sure before you leave...
Millie Ruano
March 30th, 2023
On behalf of my family, we give appreciation and thanks to Mr. Rocha for assisting my husband to be allowed to join our family again. We were totally blindsided by the situation and when Mr. Rocha worked his magic for us, figured we wouldn't see my husband again, it was nothing less than magic to us! I have never had to deal with an attorney before so I was nervous but felt more at ease right away especially since Mr. Rocha either answered his own phone right away or was available to speak with when I called. This just made...
Juan Pedro & Doreen
July 12th, 2021

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Rocha Law Firm
Pin 406 W. 6th , Drive
Mesa, AZ 85210
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