Reduction Denied in Federal Sentence for Drug Courier
It is rare, however, for the courier to be unaware of the quantity involved.
In the case of Juan Felipe Rodriguez-Castro (“Rodriguez”), 33.46 kilograms – roughly 73 pounds - of cocaine was seized in the gas tank of a car driven by him over the Mexico-U.S. border. Rodriguez admitted that he knew the drug was there, but did not know it was cocaine. However, he also conceded that he accepted $3,500 to courier the drugs, that he was given the vehicle from a co-worker several weeks before for the purpose of moving the drugs across the border and that he crossed back-and-forth across the border to develop a Port of Entry record before the delivery date.In a Nutshell: Cocaine courier’s sentence not reduced due to large quantity seized, which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considered as showing the courier was not a minor participant in the transportation of the cocaine.
It stands to reason that Rodriguez must have realized that the street value of the drugs was many multiples of the fee he was paid.
In other words, Rodriguez was not just handed the keys to a car at the last minute and asked to simply drive the car across the border for a couple thousand bucks. He was involved in the planning, rehearsal and execution of the delivery. He was an integral part of the delivery, if not the most important part. He knew or should have known that he was not ferrying across 100 grams of something if he was being paid $3,500.
After being arrested and charged, Rodriguez pled guilty to a violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 952 and 960 for his illegal importing of the drugs. He was then sentenced to 57 months in federal prison.
The Ninth Circuit also noted, in seemingly defending the trial court, that Rodriguez received 57 months, although he was eligible for between 57 months and 71 months for his offense level. This suggested that were the Ninth Circuit to set aside the sentence and remand the case for further sentencing, Rodriguez ironically could receive a larger sentence if the trial court found alternate grounds to keep the same offense level instead of reducing it two levels like Rodriguez claimed he was so entitled. In other words, the Ninth Circuit was hinting that Rodriguez was not only presumptuous, but unwise.
For case summaries of selected drug offense cases our firm has handled, click here.
Contact Greg Hill & Associates Attorney Profile Client Testimonials