Some of my clients who arrested at the United States port of entry after drugs are found in their vehicle claim that they did not know the drugs were present. Those who are tricked by others to take drugs without their knowledge are referred to as “blind mules”. Generally, the prosecution takes the position that a driver is responsible for the contents of their vehicle. Many prosecutors and governement officilals do not acknowledge that blind mules even exist.
I have always wondered if blind mules don’t exist why their are signs at the border advising individuals to report to the inspectors any packages they have been asked to carry if they don’t know their contents or to tell them if they have lent their car to anyone in Mexico.
I know that blind mules do exist. When I was in high school, my friend Robert and I went to eat the delicious lobster twenty miles South of Tijuana. Robert and I left his Ford Comet in a body shop so it could be re-upholstered. After we returned to San Diego, the next morning Robert called me and told me to come take a look at his car. Someone had ripped up all the new upholstery with a knife ! It is obvious that someone followed us and took drugs out of the new seat cushion of his car.
Who would have believed two long haired high school students who said they had no knowledge of the drugs?
Some of my clients “look the other way” when they are proposed with a “too good to be true offer” in Tijuana. They are simply told by someone they meet in a bar to drive a car from Tijuana to San Ysidro and park it in a parking lot and they will receive payment, for some reason, almost always $500.
The blind mule is not guilty of a narcotics offense becuase he or she has no reason to believe there are drugs in the vehicle. However, if you ever find yourself in this position, the best thing to do is not talk to the police because generally with no witness statements, the passengers will be cut free by the customs officials and there will be little evidence to convict the driver. Remember, any statement to the police can harm you. A simple denial of “I have drugs in my car, could be construed as an affirmative statement, “I have drugs in my car.!”
The individual who ”looks the other way” may be guilty of a narcotics offense because if he or she has reason to believe there are drugs in the car, that may be suffcient to establish the knowledge element required by the statute (law.) Also, it is no excuse to tell the inspectors that you believe you were only bringing in a small quantity of marijuana when they find heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine in the car. Bringing in any narcotic with knowledge in essence makes you strictly liable for possession of all other contraband found in the car regardless of your knowledge.
Border drugs offenses are serious and generally carry “mandatory minimum” sentences of five, ten, or more years without parole. Border crimes result in severe penalties, including deportation of long time resident aliens. The United States government is unforgiving and presumes that you are guility if drugs are found in a vehicle that you are driving or in which you are a passenger.
Don’t be a blind mule! If you go to Mexico, it is best for you to take your own car and keep it parked in a secure area. Do not carry packages for anyone. Probably an even better bet is to take a taxi !