Flying drugs across the border

Michigan residents might not know about some of the ways alleged drug smugglers attempt to bring illegal drugs into the country, but a U.S. attorney in California said that drug traffickers have tried using fishing boats, tunnels and jet skis in the past. One of the latest attempts involves using a drone to fly drugs into the United States.

Two men pleaded guilty on Aug. 12 after apparently smuggling almost 30 pounds of heroin out of Mexico and into the U.S. by using a drone. An 18-year-old and 19-year-old, who are both from California, told a federal court that they went to pick up a bag with 28.6 pounds of heroin, and the younger man controlled the drone after it crossed the border while the older man admitted to putting the heroin in the trunk. The men face sentencing for possession of heroin with intent to distribute and could receive sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

Authorities started to notice that some ultralight planes made quick runs into the U.S. about four years ago, and they discovered that people would drop bundles of marijuana into the Imperial Valley in California. Drones and ultralights both have weight restrictions, and a representative of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego said that this tactic does not seem especially lucrative or successful. She also said it was the first drug seizure along the California and Mexico border that involved a drone.

Drug charges can involve serious, life-changing consequences, but those convicted of intent to distribute may face especially severe penalties. A criminal defense attorney who represents someone accused of a drug crime will look at the search that led to the seizure of the drugs. If any evidence was obtained through unlawful means, it might not be admissible in court.

Source: Time, "2 Plead Guilty to Using Drones to Smuggle Heroin Into U.S.", Associated Press, Aug. 12, 2015