Jerod Gunsberg, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

According to The Los Angeles Times, three individuals were arrested last night (October 30) in the Palos Vedes Peninsula on suspicion of trying “to smuggle contraband.”

A Coast Guard helicopter and two Coast Guard vessels were involved in the events that led to the arrest, which took place after the boat landed near Malaga Park.

Federal authorities did not indicate what kind of contraband was involved.  As a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, I know that most such arrests involve the alleged smuggling of illegal drugs or their precursor chemicals.  Specifically, under 21 U.S.C. Sections 955 and 959, possession, manufacture, and distribution of a controlled substance applies to a boat, aircraft or other vessel that is within 12 miles of the coast of the United States or is intended to be with in the territorial waters of the United States.

Contrary to what many people believe, however, in ths context contraband can involve a wide array of substances that are generally legal to possess. For example, the United States Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. Section 331) prohibits the importation of unapproved new drugs,.  Federal law also prohibits importation of certain firearms and even perscription drugs.

Given that a small vessel was involved here, it is likley that the authorities are trying to collect information that would help them tie this isolated act to a broader network or conspiracy.  That is one avenue of the questioning that is likely being directed to the three individuals who were arrested.  It is also possible that federal authorities may be trying to gain the cooperation of those arrested by emphasizing the lengthy prison sentences thay will face if convicted of violating federal smuggling laws.

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