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Penalties for First-Time Alien Smuggling in Texas

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Texas is tough on immigration, and charges for first-time alien smuggling in the state come with steep penalties. Is alien smuggling a felony in Texas? Human smuggling, known more commonly in the Texas criminal justice system as alien smuggling, is a felony federal offense that carries serious consequences for first-timers and repeat offenders alike.

These complex, high-stakes cases require specialized lawyers who are experienced in federal court trials and working cases that involve federal agencies like the FBI and the DEA.

If you or a loved one has been arrested on suspicion of alien smuggling, you need an aggressive federal criminal attorney in San Antonio to start building your defense today if you have any hope of avoiding a lengthy prison sentence.

What Is Alien Smuggling?

Alien smuggling charges cover a wide range of activities surrounding the transport of undocumented immigrants across national borders and into the U.S. There are many ways in which you can wind up with a human smuggling charge that do not include yourself physically transporting humans across state or national borders.

The federal code for alien smuggling essentially makes it illegal to, in any way, assist anyone with unlawful entry into the country. U.S. Code § 1324 details a few ways in which a person can be charged for first-time alien smuggling:


A person can be charged with harboring illegal aliens for a variety of activities:

  • Bringing, or attempting to bring, a person or persons into the nation with the knowledge that they are an alien.
  • Transporting, or attempting to transport, a person or persons with the knowledge that they have entered the country illegally.
  • Concealing, harboring, shielding, or attempting to shield any person from detection in a building or vehicle with the knowledge that they are in the country illegally and in violation of immigration laws.
  • Encouraging a person or persons to come to the U.S., or to reside in the U.S., with the knowledge that it would be a violation of immigration laws.

Aiding and Abetting

Aiding or abetting any of the above-listed harboring actions can easily land a person with an alien smuggling charge. You can be charged under U.S. Code § 1324 even if you were “just trying to help,” and ended up allowing them to evade detection.

It is considered a criminal offense to knowingly have an illegal alien on your property as an employee, tenant, or houseguest, and you could be looking at alien smuggling charges for harboring if a Texas search warrant turns up an illegal alien on your property.


It is also illegal to conspire to harbor illegal aliens. This means that playing any role in the transporting or concealing of illegal aliens will implicate you in conspiracy for human smuggling. Whether you were driving the truck or just talking about it, you can still be held liable. In order to be charged with conspiracy you must plan to commit the offense and make an overt act towards the commissioning of that plan.

How Much Jail Time Do You Get for Smuggling?

Punishments for alien smuggling in Texas, even for first-timers, are uniformly severe. They are federal felony charges that carry minimum prison sentences, secondary penalties, and can even affect the immigration statuses of non-citizens during the naturalization process. Current residents of the U.S. who do not have citizenship can face extradition or be branded a fugitive of justice.

Continue reading: What is a fugitive of justice?

How Much Time Can You Get for Smuggling Illegal Immigrants in Texas for the First Time?

ModifierFineTime in prison
Not acting for profitUp to $250,000Up to 5 years
Acting for profitUp to $250,000Up to 10 years
Involving serious bodily injuryUp to $250,000Up to 20 years
Involving deathUp to $250,000Up to life in prison

Due to Texas extradition laws, if you are arrested in Texas cities like San Antonio for drug trafficking, alien smuggling, or committing other serious felony crimes, you must be prosecuted in Texas.

If you are awaiting extradition to another state for alien smuggling, or are in another state fighting extradition to Bexar County, Call Donald Flanary from Flanary Law Firm at (210) 899-7566
Donald can help you understand your options and your rights, and help you decide your next move.

Alien Smuggling Sentencing Guidelines

The alien smuggling sentencing guidelines use a point system to determine how severe penalties such as fines and jail time should be.

There are a few aggravating factors that can cause a first-time smuggling charge to become much more severe. According to these guidelines, acting for profit, serious injury, and death would all cause maximum sentences to increase greatly, but previous criminal history is also a major determining factor in alien smuggling sentencing.

A first-time alien smuggling charge with no aggravating factors present and no criminal history would be considered an offense level 12 (43 is the maximum offense level).

Factors That Can Increase Base-Level Offenses

If it’s your first alien smuggling charge, you won’t accrue any extra points in the criminal history column, but repeat offenders will find that the likelihood of drawing maximum penalties goes up significantly with each charge. The point system is also affected by how the defendant pleads, incentivizing the accused to plead guilty in exchange for a reduction of two points.

Base-level offenses can also be increased if:

  • The number of aliens smuggled is between 6 and 24 (2 point increase)
  • The number of aliens smuggled is between 25 and 99 (6 point increase)
  • The number of aliens smuggled is over 100 (9-point increase)
  • The defendant possessed a firearm during the commission of the crime (2-point increase)
  • A child was smuggled without their parents during the commission of the crime (4-point increase)

The point system is, however, only a guide. The judge must calculate what level your charge is according to previous history and aggravating factors, but will ultimately make the decision of your sentencing alone.

The judge is not the only human element that interferes with the alien smuggling sentencing guidelines, after all. The other major player in determining how long a smuggling conviction could put you away for is your lawyer, so you better get a good one.

Is There a Waiver for Alien Smuggling?

Under certain circumstances, a person accused (or even convicted) of alien smuggling activities may be eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility. This waiver would allow someone to continue applying for immigration benefits or avoid deportation after engaging in alien smuggling activities.

There are three requirements for applying for a waiver of inadmissibility:

  • The applicant must be a lawful permanent resident or be applying for a family-based visa. The waiver is not available for employment, education, or visitation visas.
  • The person who was brought into the U.S. must have been the applicant’s spouse, parent, or child at the time of entry.
  • The applicant must prove that they acted for humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or otherwise in the public interest.

Being granted a waiver of inadmissibility for alien smuggling is possible, but having a good lawyer will help you as much (or more) as having a good reason for the act of smuggling.

Charged With First-Time Alien Smuggling in Texas? Call Flanary Law Firm for Great Representation.

Whether you were driving the truck or hiding one person from a federal agency, you can be charged with first-time alien smuggling in Texas. If you or a loved one have been arrested under suspicion of harboring, aiding and abetting, or conspiracy to smuggle illegal aliens, you need the best alien smuggling attorney in Texas you can possibly find if you plan to walk away with your freedom.

Donald Flanary knows how to fight for his clients in a federal court. He doesn’t back down when the stakes are high, and he fights for what is right. Don’t let uncompromising immigration laws define the rest of your life, get Don Flanery to fight for you.

Call Flanary Law Firm today at (210) 899-7566
or contact us online for a free consultation.

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