Nine people, including six U.S. citizens, were arrested for smuggling marijuana into the United States just after midnight last night.  Border patrol agents observed the boat arriving through Crystal Cove State Park near Laguna Beach and then saw seven people unloading 26 bundles of marijuana from a panga-style boat in El Moro  Beach in north Laguna.  Two others were also detained when they attempted to flee the scene in their vehicle.  The agents seized 1,200 pounds of marijuana. 

Panga-style fishing boats are frequently used to smuggle drugs and aliens from Mexico to the United States.  Many individuals have been arrested along the South Orange County coast in the last few years smuggling both drugs and Mexican nationals. 

Smuggling marijuana into the United States is a federal offense.  Many drug offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences in federal court.  Any offense involving 1000 kilos (2200 pounds) or more of marijuana carries a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence.   A case involving 100 kilos (220 pounds) or more, as were found in this case, carries a 5 year mandatory minimum sentence.  Sentences in drug cases are determined by quantity.  So the mandatory minimum is only a starting point.  There are only 2 ways someone charged with these quantities can receive a sentence below the mandatory minimum.

It can get much more serious from there.  Other factors come into play in determining a sentence in a drug case such as the person’s criminal history.  If someone has a prior drug trafficking conviction, they could be facing an additional 10 years in prison.  If they have 2 prior drug trafficking convictions they could be looking at a life sentence.  That is why it is critical to hire an attorney who is experienced in federal criminal defense if you are charged with a federal drug crime.

If you or a loved one are facing federal criminal charges contact the Law Office of Diane C. Bass immediately.