Cocaine Related Arrests at LAX
- February 13, 2012
- Jerod Gunsberg
- No comments
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was on February 2 the scene of high-profile drug smuggling arrests. Two Spanish nationals, mother and daughter, were stopped allegedly carrying up to ten pounds of cocaine. According to the local NBC affiliate, the pair were here just for a stop over, and were scheduled to fly to Australia.
One of the most troubling aspect of the press coverage of this story is that, following their arrests, the mother and daughter provided authorities with incriminating information, including that they had previously received money in exchange for transporting packages.
It is perhaps too much to ask two people who are unfamiliar with American law and culture, and who undoubtedly must have been feeling an enormous amount of fear and anxiety, to know that they shouldn’t speak to authorities without first speaking to a lawyer. It appears that federal agents paid attention to the two because they had an unusual travel pattern, including short recent trips to Panama and Columbia.
Because of the quantity of cocaine that was seized, and because they were arrested at LAX by federal officials, they are facing federal charges. And that means they are facing much higher potential sentences than they would in the California state system. Here, each may be facing up to a 40-year sentence. And in federal prison, a forty-year jail sentence means that you almost certainly going to be in prison for more than 30 years.
There is no other way to put it–the federal system is different. Most crimes are state crimes; as a result relatively few lawyers are experienced in defending cases in federal court, which has different prosecutors, judges, juries, and rules than California state courts.
It is impossible to tell from the press coverage just how damaging the statements made to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will prove to be, but I am certain that people who are arrested for drug crimes, especially ones facing federal charges, are better off talking to a lawyer before they make any statements to the authorities. And that’s true whether you are arrested or just being asked to appear for an interview with the FBI, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), The Secret Service, IRS, or any other federal agency.