Tampa Alien Smuggling Defense Attorney
Florida criminal defense attorneys
specializing in complex federal cases
Illegal entry of immigrants has been and remains a fact of life in Tampa, Florida, and throughout the United States. In 2016, 425,000 U.S. citizens in the state acknowledged that they lived with at least one family member who lacked authorization to be in the country. In some cases, those who immigrated illegally hired alien smugglers to transport and aid them on their journeys. The act of alien smuggling is a serious federal crime that is aggressively prosecuted, and a conviction could mean decades behind bars in federal prison. A Tampa alien smuggling defense lawyer like Joffe Law, P.A. can help you mount a powerful defense to counter these potentially life-altering charges.
A wide scope of offenses
Most people see alien smuggling through the lens of news articles about boats full of migrants intercepted on the waters around South Florida. For example, this report from the Sun-Sentinel described how authorities stopped a 25-foot boat filled with a suspiciously high number of passengers. The law enforcement action resulted in the detention of 12 immigrants from various countries who had each paid thousands of dollars for transport to the United States. A 29-year-old man at the helm of the boat was taken into custody and charged with alien smuggling.
Although this is how the public typically sees alien smuggling, the criminal offense goes beyond the act of bringing people into the country. Title 8 U.S.C. Section 1324 specifies all activities that can individually result in a federal criminal charge, including:
- encouraging or inducing
The specific legal definitions for each activity illustrate how many different activities could cause someone to become entangled in a criminal investigation. Smuggling involves bringing someone to the country illegally or attempting to do so. Transporting is a criminal offense that can take place after the unauthorized immigrants are in the country. This means that a person technically commits a crime when moving the immigrants or attempting to move them within the United States despite knowing they are entered illegally.
What is harboring?
Harboring occurs when people provide undocumented immigrants with a place to stay or take any actions to conceal them. Once again, even attempts to harbor may constitute a federal offense. Encouraging or inducing happens when people, such as employers, family members, or even immigration activists, aid illegal entries in some way despite knowing that the immigrants have no legal authorization.
Knowingly hiring illegal immigrants represents another criminal offense related to alien smuggling. Employers may hire people without initially knowing that they are in the country illegally. However, as soon as an employer knows the truth but continues the employment anyway, a federal criminal charge becomes possible.
Don't incriminate yourself. Speak with an alien smuggling defense attorney near you.
Consequences often aren’t understood
Many of these offenses can take place inside the country, far from a border. Well-meaning people might transport, harbor, employ or encourage unlawful immigrants without fully realizing the potential for prosecution. An alien smuggling defense attorney in Tampa can provide guidance that could help someone confronted by allegations of this nature. The threat of federal prosecution can be extremely intimidating, and suspected alien smugglers should obtain legal advice before answering questions.
Penalties for alien smuggling
The stakes are high for individuals facing allegations of alien smuggling in Tampa. Should a federal prosecutor file criminal charges, a prison sentence becomes a real possibility. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported that 88.5% of people prosecuted for alien smuggling received a prison sentence in 2014. Federal law authorizes prison terms up to 5 and in some cases 10 years for various alien smuggling offenses. Any cases that involve serious bodily injury allow for prison sentences up to 20 years. Fines are also frequently imposed on people convicted of this federal crime. A federal agency may seize assets from those involved in bringing people to the country illegally. For example, a boat used to transport people to Florida could be seized and sold by federal authorities.
Often, people who find themselves in these stressful circumstances are not stereotypical criminals. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 59.9% of people convicted of alien smuggling in 2014 had little to no prior criminal history.
Defense strategies for alien smuggling cases
Accusations of alien smuggling might be a suspect’s first time being the subject of a criminal investigation. Representation from an experienced Tampa federal criminal defense attorney provides a person with answers about how the system works. A lawyer’s role also includes identifying a defense strategy applicable to the situation. One possible avenue of defense could be questioning whether the defendant knew that the people in question were undocumented immigrants. The U.S. Department of Justice requires its prosecuting attorneys to present proof that a defendant had knowledge of what was going on or at least showed a reckless disregard for the possibility of alien smuggling and participated anyway.
An alien smuggling attorney in Tampa can find opportunities to question whether a prosecutor has sufficient evidence to pursue a trial. When successful, such a strategy may result in dismissed or reduced charges. At a minimum, this tactic might enable a plea deal that includes lenient treatment, such as a fine instead of prison time.
Get help from an attorney near you
The federal criminal justice system is a separate system from the local and state courts. The procedures are different, prosecutors may be especially aggressive, and federal law frequently calls for harsh penalties. For all of these reasons, the threat of federal prosecution calls for a person to seek the services of an experienced Tampa alien smuggling lawyer. Joffe Law, P.A. applies many decades of federal court experience to the defense of all clients. A confidential discussion can prepare you to plan your next steps. If you are in Tampa, Florida, and have questions about alien smuggling, we urge you to contact us right away.