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Border Crimes Defense Attorneys in Phoenix and Denver

If you have been charged with illegal reentry into the United States, drug smuggling, or alien smuggling, the only thing standing between you and a lengthy prison sentence is your defense lawyer. At Castañeda Law, we understand these cases. Our attorneys speak Spanish, and were themselves born in Mexico and raised in a border town. They know the pressures and circumstances that can lead to an arrest for a border crime. And they have substantial experience defending clients against these charges.

Federal prosecutors are constantly looking to up their arrest statistics, and they have attempted to do so by making a mass of immigration arrests. These cases are clogging the criminal courts, and often lead to disproportionately long sentences. But the fact that you have been arrested for a border crime does not mean that you are without any defense. We can help. Call Castañeda Law for a free consultation.

What is Illegal Reentry?

United States law sets forth specific offenses concerning illegal reentry. In 8 U.S.C. § 1326, entitled “Reentry of Removed Aliens,” the law provides that it is illegal to reenter the United States, or attempt to reenter, except in very limited circumstances, if you were previously denied admission, deported, removed, or if you left the country while an order of exclusion or removal was outstanding. The penalty includes up to two years in prison.

In some illegal reentry cases, enhanced penalties may apply. These include the following:

  • Persons whose removal came after the commission of at least three misdemeanors for drugs or certain violent crimes, or after the commission of a felony, can be sentenced up to 10 years in prison.

  • Persons whose removal came after the commission of an aggravated felony can be sentenced for up to 20 years in prison. There are approximately 20 aggravated felonies to which this section applies, including trafficking in drugs, rape, murder, felony theft or burglary, trafficking in firearms, obstruction of justice, fraud (in excess of $10,000), and perjury, among others.

  • Persons who were removed for various other reasons may also be subject to enhanced sentences of up to 10 years in prison.

While the government would have you believe that these are “open and shut” cases, this is not true. You are entitled to a defense. Among other things, because the prior removal is an element of an illegal reentry case, you can even challenge the prior deportation. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that a defendant is entitled under due process to mount a collateral attack on the prior proceeding. Other defenses may also be available.

Drug Smuggling Defense

Drug smuggling, across national borders, is monitored and enforced by a number of federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), The Coast Guard, the Customs Service, and the United States Border Patrol.

There are many different ways to hide goods that are being brought into the country illegally, but there are two primary methods used. One is to conceal them on a person, or in someone’s baggage or vehicle. The second method is to move the goods past the border using a plane, a boat or a truck.

Whatever method is used, if you get caught, the potential penalties are severe. The federal law dealing with smuggling goods into the United States is contained in 18 U.S.C. § 545. That section covers smuggling, or clandestinely or illegally bringing goods into the country. Offenses include (a) bringing in goods that should have been declared to customs, (b) attempting to bring in goods using false or forged documents or invoices, and (c) bringing goods across the border that are illegal in the United States. As you might expect, the potential sentence if you are convicted is significant. Violations of this section carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, fines, or both.

Like illegal reentry, there are defenses available in smuggling cases. In addition, in many cases, young people are tricked or pressured by friends into carrying drugs into the United States. This may provide a mitigating factor in your favor. If the evidence against you is relatively weak, we will do everything within our power to have the charges dismissed. If the government’s case is very strong, we will nevertheless do all we can to reduce the charges and/or the sentence. And we are not afraid to go to trial in a drug-smuggling case where our client makes that choice.

Alien Smuggling

The alien smuggling law, in essence, makes it a crime to bring a person into the United States without following proper legal guidelines. But the law actually covers far more than merely smuggling a person into the country. It includes a number of ancillary issues, all of which are specified in the statute.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 1324, the following acts are declared to be unlawful:

  • With knowledge that a person is an alien, bringing that person into the country at a place other than a designated port of entry.

  • With knowledge (or in reckless disregard of the fact) that a person has entered the country illegally, transporting or attempting to transport that person within the country.

  • With knowledge (or in reckless disregard of the fact) that a person has entered or remains in the country illegally, concealing or harboring the individual, or attempting to do so.

  • Encouraging or inducing an alien to enter the United States knowing that the entry would be illegal, or in reckless disregard of that fact.

  • Conspiring to commit any act prohibited under the statute. 

  • Aiding or abetting the commission of any act prohibited under the statute.


The penalties of a conviction under the alien smuggling law are harsh. Depending upon the particular section of the statute is involved, a prison sentence of up to 5, 10 or even 20 years may apply. And the sentence applies to each alien who is the subject of the charge.

Attorneys Defending Border Crimes

At Castañeda Law, we are experienced at defending clients charged with border crimes. We know the law, and we know the system. We understand that this is a difficult time for your and for your family. When we are retained to represent a client in these circumstances, we sit down and discuss what happened. We will then evaluate your case, and tell you how we think we should proceed. There is no language barrier, and we will explain the case to you in a way that you can understand.

We can’t undo what has been done, but we can make sure that we are with you every step of the way during this difficult time. If you have been charged with illegal entry, drug smuggling, or alien smuggling, contact Castañeda Law to speak to an experienced border crimes attorney and schedule a free consultation.

Call (303) 386-7135 (Colorado) or (602) 251-3132 (Arizona)

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