Arizona Human Smuggling Laws
Human smuggling is the clandestine facilitation of people into illegal areas or across international borders. Cochise County, bordering Mexico, is a hotspot for human trafficking and smuggling in Arizona. Usually, younger drivers are paid thousands of dollars to covertly transport unauthorized individuals from Mexico into Arizona. Human smuggling can result in deadly police chases, as young drivers are inexperienced and often wreck their vehicles, causing harm to themselves, others, and anyone they are covertly transporting. Human smuggling is a very serious charge, and drivers are also held criminally responsible for any damage they may cause while driving.
House Bill 2696 – Bill on Human Smuggling
Passed in April 2022, Republican House Bill 2696 sought to address the problem of human smuggling. Arizona is a prime location for human trafficking and smuggling, with the National Human Trafficking Hotline reporting 608 incidents in 2020 alone, which is likely vastly underreported. The Bill made changes to the Arizona Revised Statute 13-2323 involving the criminal penalties around human trafficking and smuggling in the hopes of discouraging likely smugglers from doing business. The purpose is to empower Arizona police officers to make more arrests and be more proactive in stopping human smuggling.
A.R.S. 13-2323 – Participating in a Human Smuggling Organization
A.R.S. 13-2323 is titled, “Participating in a human smuggling organization or operation.” The statute prohibits any sort of involvement in human smuggling, including organizing, managing, directing, assisting, leading, participating in, or financing a human smuggling operation or organization. Importantly, the statute requires a knowing or intentional standard, meaning an unwitting individual might be acquitted if arrested.
The change to the statute adds a provision that states it is unlawful to transport a person with the intent to conceal the person from a police officer. Prior to the change, if a smuggler was pulled over with people concealed in their car, police could not arrest them unless they sped away. The change also makes human smuggling under any circumstances a class 2 felony, which is a step up in severity from where the punishment was previously. Class 2 felonies are exceedingly severe and can result in three to twelve and a half years in prison and hefty fines.
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