Michael A. Gottlieb, P.A. - Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer

How can spring breakers become accidental drug smugglers?

Now that spring break season is officially here, thousands of college students will be heading to the airport or hitting the road in the coming weeks, heading to those spots with sunny skies, warm temperatures and, of course, festive atmospheres.

While for many young people this will mean a trip right here to Florida, the destination of choice for many others will be Southern California, Arizona or even Texas. Interestingly enough, however, government officials are now warning those young people headed to these West Coast locations to proceed with caution if they plan to cross the border into Mexico lest they unwittingly end up behind bars on their return trip.

How would spring breakers unwittingly end up behind bars?

According to experts, spring breakers who travel by car across the border into Mexico are often made into unsuspecting drug smugglers or "blind mules."

What exactly does this entail?

Being made into a blind mule involves narcotics traffickers working for various cartels affixing a small, yet highly valuable package of drugs along with a GPS tracker to the undercarriage of vehicles or the inside of rear-mounted spare tires using magnets or strong adhesive tape.

The unwitting driver then attempts to cross the border and, if they make it, a narcotics trafficker located in the U.S. will later retrieve the package using GPS software with the driver and passengers none the wiser.

What happens if the drugs are discovered at the border checkpoint?     

As you can likely imagine, the driver and passengers will likely be taken into custody and federal law enforcement officials will likely be skeptical of their story. Indeed, criminal defense attorneys in these states are reporting seeing more and more of these cases.

Are only college students being targeted?   

While college students -- especially spring breakers -- make an enticing target, experts indicate that cartels also frequently target those who regularly cross the border for things like work, visits to relatives or prescription drug purchases.

Is there anything people can do to protect themselves from becoming a blind mule?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recommend that spring breakers remain vigilant, meaning they watch where they park, avoid loaning out their vehicle unnecessarily, and check in and around the vehicle before crossing the border.

If you are under investigation or have already been charged with a federal drug crime, understand that the penalties for a conviction are incredibly severe. As such, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible. 

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