Federal Alien Smuggling Crime: Can They Charge Me Even If There Were No Undocumented Aliens With Me?

As a Dallas federal criminal defense lawyer, I handle alien smuggling cases all over the State of Texas, including the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, and Del Rio.  One question clients sometimes ask is whether they can really be charged with alien smuggling if they were not found with any undocumented aliens.  For example, if the accused was in a car that was stopped by the Border Patrol, but there were no aliens in the car, can they still be charged with smuggling or transporting aliens into the United States?

The answer is, “yes,” if the facts indicate that you were involved you can be charged, but whether the Government will have a strong case depends on the individual facts and circumstances of the case.

Under federal law, anyone who knowingly or recklessly brings someone into the United States illegally, transports such a person within the United States, or hides such a person within the United States, can be prosecuted for alien smuggling.  See 8 U.S.C. section 1324. But anyone who arranges for, helps, or assists one or more people who smuggle aliens can also be prosecuted for conspiracy to smuggle aliens.

It is a common practice for alien smugglers to have two cars—a lookout car and a “load” car.  The job of the lookout car is to look for law enforcement and to help find the aliens at the pickup point.  The job of the “load” car is to transport the aliens from the border to a drop-off point inside the United States.  Border Patrol agents know this. They often become suspicious when they see two cars driving together “in tandem” in areas near the border that are known smuggling routes.

Border Patrol agents will often stop both cars together.  But, if there are no undocumented aliens in the “lookout” car, does that mean the people in that car cannot be charged?  The answer is “no.” If the people in the lookout car were assisting others, including someone in the “load” car, they can be charged with alien smuggling or conspiracy to smuggle aliens.

In these cases, what kind of lawyer do you need? How do you best defend the accused in a case like that?  One effective defense in some cases is that the accused did not know that aliens were being smuggled.  In order to convict the accused, the Government must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused knew that he or she was assisting in alien smuggling and agreed to do it willingly.  The facts or circumstances of an individual case may make it unclear whether the accused really knew aliens were being smuggled. There also may be an argument that law enforcement stopped the accused illegally and that the evidence they got as a result must be thrown out.  The defenses that are available and effective will, of course, depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the case.

If you or a loved one is charged with alien smuggling in Texas, including the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, or Del Rio, contact an experienced federal criminal defense trial lawyer to make sure that your rights are protected. Call experienced federal defense attorney John M. Helms in Dallas at (214) 666-8010 and have your rights protected by a federal immigration defense attorney with a fighter’s mindset.

Federal Immigration Defense Attorney John Helms

T: (214) 666-8010