Without giving away any spoilers, the basic plot of the new comedy “We Are the Millers” is that low-level marijuana dealer David Clark is forced to smuggle marijuana across the border for drug lord Brad Gurdlinger. Recognizing that a family traveling across the border will seem less suspicious than a single man doing the same, David recruits a teenage runaway named Casey, a neighbor named Kenny and a stripper named Rose to pose as his two children and his wife. So assuming this wasn’t a comedy where everything usually turns out alright, but a real-life scenario, what penalties would David and his “family” be risking? San Diego criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss breaks it down for you here.
The most obvious charge here is drug importation. This federal charge is different from simple drug trafficking charges and anyone accused of the crime needs a San Diego federal crime lawyer with experience handling these types of serious cases. While the penalties vary based on the type of drug, the amount seized and the defendant’s previous criminal record, the minimum sentence is usually at least 10 years in federal prison.
Additionally, anyone importing drugs in large quantities is assumed to be part of an importation conspiracy, which will result in their facing charges for any crimes related to the importation of those drugs, even if they did not commit those crimes themselves. Federal prosecutors aggressively go after these charges with the hope that it will help gather information on persons higher up in the drug conspiracy. This means two things for “The Millers.” First, it means that Kenny and Rose are also subject to importation charges (Casey would most likely face different charges, as she is a minor). But more importantly, it means that the three adults could be charged with any associated crimes committed by the drug lord or his underlings. For example, if Gurdlinger murdered a DEA agent who was following the fake family’s motor home, David, Rose and Kenny could be charged with murder as well.
That’s not the only federal crime the family is breaking either. Because citizens of the U.S. need proper identification to re-enter the country, the “family” members would need fake passports. While they are all actually American citizens, using a fake passport is a crime. The usual maximum sentence for use of a fake passport is 10 years, but in cases involving drug trafficking crimes, the sentence is increased to 15. While U.S. Attorney General Holder has announced that his office will be seeking lower sentences for non-cartel, lower-level drug cases, the massive quantity of drugs in this case, along with the direct tie to dug cartels would mean the Millers would probably face the full sentence for these crimes.
If the “Millers” were caught at the border, they would each be facing at least 25 years in federal prison for marijuana importation and possession of fraudulent passports. Even with such serious penalties looming over them though, they could fight the charges with a San Diego federal crime attorney. One thing that could certainly help their case would be to help provide the DEA or FBI with sufficient evidence to assist in the arrest of Brad Gurdlinger. Unfortunately for Rose and Kenny though, this means that even though they were just along for the ride, the fact that they have less information to offer would mean they could potentially serve more time than David, who recruited them.
Casey would need a San Diego juvenile lawyer and her attorney would have to work hard to ensure the runaway was charged as a minor and not an adult, which would result in her facing the same charges as the rest of the group.
In some cases, border drug busts may go to state courts. While this would not be likely in this case because the group had a whole motor home full of drugs and could be tied back to a larger drug conspiracy, it would be beneficial to the group if it went to a state court. In California, transportation of marijuana can result in a maximum sentence of four years, although other charges can add additional time, such as possession of a firearm. The family would also face another sentence for their fake government documents, but again, the state penalty would still probably be shorter than the federal one.
While the fake family would obviously prefer to not be caught at all, they would certainly be better off facing state charges than federal ones as the maximum penalty.
If you have been charged with drug importation or transportation, or the possession of fake passports, San Diego criminal attorney Peter M. Liss can help you the same way he could help the fictional characters in “We Are The Millers.” If you have any questions or are ready to schedule a free initial consultation, please call (760) 643-4050 OR (858) 486-3024.