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What is a Jewell plea in a federal drug case?

Posted by Russell Babcock | Jun 19, 2023 | 0 Comments

I am often asked, what is a Jewell plea. ? And in the case of a client, I am also asked is a Jewell plea better than a regular plea in a narcotics case.
Many of these cases come up when person crosses from Mexico into the United States at a port of entry such as San Diego (San Ysidro) or Calexico (El Centro)  with drugs such as methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine, or heroin, in their vehicle, and they do not know of the presence of the drugs.

United States v. Jewell 532 F2d 697 (9th Cir 1976) addressed this problem, In this case from San Diego Mr. Jewell did not know for certain that marijuana had been hidden in compartments in the car he was driving but he “looked the other way.”  The lower court said that to be guilty of possessing drugs a person must “absolutely, positively” know that there are drugs in the vehicle.
But the Jewell case decided otherwise.  If a person chooses to consciously disregard the risk there are drugs in the vehicle under circumstances that they are aware that there is a high probability that there are drugs in the vehicle, then this satisfies the knowledge element, and they can be found guilty.

Guilt very rarely comes in shades of black or white.  Most cases are in the gray zone.  What about the person who is told that there will not be drugs in a vehicle but they loan their car to someone they know is a drug dealer before they cross it back from Mexico to the United States?  And what about a person who is told that they will be smuggling cash from the United States to Mexico but they are told to park their vehicle and leave it (so the drugs can be offloaded: something not necessary with bulk cash smuggling?  The Jewell case says that such a person may plead guilty or be found guilty by a jury. 

Sometimes a Jewell plea may have advantages for the defense. Some judges will give a person a lighter sentence knowing that the defendant did not actually know there were drugs in the vehicle.  
As you can see, these matters are complicated. Attorney Russell S. Babcock has handled more than six hundred federal cases in the United States District Court of Southern California alone and has been qualified as an expert witness in drug smuggling cases.  

We can help guide you to reaching the best resolution in your case, whether it is a Jewell plea or a trial. We will explain the law to you and help you make the best decision on your case.
Call today for your free consultation.  (619) 531-0887.  Attorney Russell Babcock handles all of his cases personally and takes your liberty and future seriously. 

About the Author

Russell Babcock

Conozca a russell Russell S. Babcock (Founder + Owner) Spanish Speaking Criminal Defense Attorney  (Federal and State Court) The law firm of Russell S. Babcock was formed to provide the highest quality of federal and state criminal defense services at reasonable prices. We are a full service c...


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