Under federal laws, alien smuggling is a federal criminal offense. It is illegal to bring in or harbor individuals who have no legal status to be in the United States. These are people who have come into the United States without permission or who have stayed past their visa expiration date. It is illegal to come into the United States from any location other than an official port of entry, to drive an undocumented immigrant across the border in a vehicle, and to transport a non-citizen into the country by using an illegal border crossing area. Additionally, it is illegal to harbor or assist an undocumented person who is seeking entry into the country by illegal means.
Laws about Alien Smuggling
Under 8 USC § 1324, a federal statute regarding alien smuggling, states the actions that follow are illegal:
- Bringing an alien into the United States
- Transporting any illegal alien in the United States
- Harboring or hiding an illegal alien in the United States
- Encouraging or convincing someone to enter the United States illegally
Most commonly, people are charged under one of the two subsections of the 8 USC § 1324 statute. The first subsection, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A) prohibits bringing aliens into the country, transporting them in the country, harboring them, encouraging them to enter the country illegally, and a conspiracy to commit or help any one of the aforementioned acts.
If you are convicted of any alien smuggling crime without financial gain you can get a maximum of 5 years in federal prison. The second subsection, 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(2), prohibits the same things as the first subsection but the penalties it carries are different. Under this section when someone is brought into the country illegally and they are not presented to immigration officials they can spend up to 10 years in federal prison. If there is the belief the defendant did this for profit, they may be subject to increased penalties.
Defenses Against Alien Smuggling Charges
It is pertinent that you hire an experienced federal criminal defense attorney if you are charged with a crime of this nature because they are best suited to understand the charges, analyze the evidence and make sure that your rights are being protected. Not all criminal defense attorneys practice federal criminal law, so make sure the attorney is experienced in the federal criminal court system.
The strategies and options you have for a defense depend on several factors. They depend on whether or not you are a citizen because if you are not a citizen you can face deportation. Other factors that would affect the admissibility of evidence in your case depend on whether there were any violations of the Fourth Amendment or under the Fifth Amendment. It is important to remember that the prosecutors must prove each and every element of the crime before they can secure a conviction. If they cannot prove an element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, then a jury cannot convict you and you would be found not guilty of the crime.
Ready to fight for you
If you or a loved one is facing an alien smuggling charge, you need an aggressive criminal defense lawyer on your side. With offices in Costa Mesa and San Diego, we serve people throughout Southern California. Call (855) 505-5588 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.