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Photo of Joshua Nielsen
Photo of Joshua Nielsen

What is an unwitting drug mule?

On Behalf of | Oct 16, 2023 | Criminal Law, drug trafficking

To minimize their risks, drug traffickers often resort to inventive methods to smuggle substances across the border. While drug mules allow them to transport drugs in small quantities, traffickers also manipulate or scam unsuspecting individuals to do the same. Unfortunately, even unwitting drug mules may face serious legal consequences if caught.

No one is safe

An unwitting drug mule can be anyone who unknowingly transports illicit drugs across borders or nations. Drug traffickers use whatever means necessary to reduce suspicion and minimize their risks as they smuggle illegal drugs across countries. A part of that is using various scams and tricks to get unsuspecting individuals to carry drugs without knowing it.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, scammers have been using older adults as drug mules. With the promise of a business opportunity, they fly abroad while transporting seemingly harmless objects that actually contain drugs.

Apart from senior citizens, traffickers also target students and professionals who routinely cross the border. Traffickers employ sophisticated techniques to unlock someone’s car and conceal drugs in the compartments. The owner then transports the stash without knowing.

Why use unwitting drug mules?

Unsuspecting individuals with legitimate reasons for travel may make effective drug mules for the following reasons:

  • They can behave naturally without exhibiting nervousness that a paid drug mule might.
  • They know nothing about the drug operation or those involved, making it difficult for law enforcement to trace the traffickers.
  • They can travel more easily without drawing attention or raising suspicion.
  • They save the traffickers money from having to pay couriers.

Additionally, when an unwitting drug mule is busted, traffickers can deny involvement and pin the blame on them.

What happens when an unwitting mule is caught?

Individuals caught transporting illegal drugs across countries or international borders may face drug trafficking charges, a crime under both federal and state law. If found guilty, they may face lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines.

However, a criminal charge is not yet a conviction. There is still an opportunity to establish innocence. In such extreme situations, individuals wrongfully accused of drug trafficking would benefit from the representation of an experienced lawyer who can defend their rights.