With Arizona’s close proximity to Mexico, people smuggling has become a significant concern for state law enforcement officers, as well as federal authorities who police the state’s borders. According to government data, the problem is also becoming increasingly worse, with Arizona seeing a 30% increase in human trafficking and smuggling in 2016 alone. This being the case, state and federal authorities have become zealous in enforcing laws and arresting those believed to harbor or transport illegal immigrants.
In the eyes of the law, the transportation of illegal immigrants is distinctly different from human smuggling, which, although a commonly used term, is intended to refer to the trade of humans for profit, commonly for the purpose of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. People smuggling, in the context of immigrants, does not entail the same violation of an individual’s human rights and is not a crime against a person. As such, it is its own criminal offense.
Under both Arizona state law and federal law, it is illegal to transport an illegal alien, meaning a non-US citizen whose presence in the U.S. is illegal under federal laws. According to Arizona’s criminal code, there are a number of actions considered unlawful:
- Transporting or attempting to move an illegal immigrant, with the knowledge that the person is in the U.S. illegally.
- Harboring, concealing, or attempting to shield an illegal immigrant from detection, with the knowledge that the person is unlawfully in the U.S.
- Encouraging or inducing an illegal immigrant to come to or reside in Arizona.
Per Arizona law, the transportation of an illegal immigrant is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, the most serious misdemeanor offense, punishable by fines up to $1,000, up to 4 years of probation, and up to 6 months in jail. However, if there are ten or more illegal immigrants involved, the offense is elevated to a Class 6 Felony, punishable by up to 1.5 years imprisonment for a first offense without aggravating circumstances.
Federal Alien Smuggling
Alien smuggling is also against federal law, and includes crimes based on the unique facts and circumstances involved in a case. For example:
- Transporting, harboring, or encouragement (not for profit) – Up to 5 years in federal prison
- Transporting, harboring, or encouragement (for profit) – Up to 10 years in prison
- If the offense results in bodily injury or death – 20 years or life in prison
Federal charges of any type are incredibly serious allegations, with severe and life-altering penalties. As such, they demand the immediate attention of criminal defense attorneys who have experience representing clients in federal court.
For any offense, state or federal, working with proven defense attorneys like those at Suzuki Law Offices is critical to protecting your rights and future as you navigate the criminal process. Based on the circumstances involved, there are adequate defense strategies, including a defendant’s lack of knowledge regarding an alien’s immigration status. Still, because prosecutors are intent on gaining convictions, your defense must be clearly and convincingly presented through meticulous preparation and legal work.
If you have questions regarding an offense involving the transportation of illegal aliens anywhere in the state of Arizona, including a federal offense, do not hesitate to contact a Phoenix criminal defense attorney from our firm for a FREE consultation. Our award-winning lawyers are standing by to help.