What Is The Punishment for Smuggling Contraband in US Prisons?
Published March 03, 2020
Prison contrabands are illegal items that the law prohibits prisoners from having while detained in prison. From weapons to some types of food, anything that inmates could trade or use to escape may be something that prison staff would deem as contraband.
Smuggling contraband inside the prison are very common, and it is still one of the significant problems throughout the United States.
There are several reasons why inmates smuggle contraband in prison. Some take the risk for the extra cash, while some do it to curry favor among the prisoners. But whatever their reason is, smuggling contraband into prison is a serious offense that comes with a hefty punishment.
What Are The Items That The Law Considers as Contraband?
What the law considers as contraband are not only items that can be used to escape, but other items that pose a risk to the other prisoners as well. These include:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Explosive devices
- Explosive substances
- Flammable liquids
- Drugs and other illegal substances
- Tattooing equipment
- Tobacco smoking accessories
- Glass containers
- Pornographic materials
- Cell phones
Prison staff does a random search to check if there are contrabands in prison cells. They also have the right to perform a body scan using a low-dose x-ray to prevent contraband from entering a jail.
How Does Illicit Items Affect Prisoners?
There is a reason why the law does not permit almost anything to get inside the prison. The goods that seem harmless can be meaningful inside the jail and can make the prison unsafe for everyone.
Moreover, contraband allows prisoners to have power over others. Prisoners can use almost anything to threaten, injure other inmates, and to try escape schemes, which can disrupt the US justice system.
Penalties for Smuggling Contraband
A common punishment for smuggling contraband are:
- A fine or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both, if an inmate was caught smuggling, possessing, or using narcotic drugs, methamphetamine, and other illegal drugs.
- A fine or imprisonment for not more than ten years, or both, if an inmate was caught smuggling, possessing, or using a firearm or destructive device.
- A fine or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both, if an inmate was caught smuggling, possessing, or using marijuana and other controlled substances.
- A fine or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, if an inmate was caught smuggling, possessing, or using alcoholic beverage and mobile devices.
- A fine or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both, if an inmate was caught smuggling, possessing, or using any other object that threatens the order, discipline, or security of a prison, or the life, health, or safety of both inmates and prison staff.
While these are the usual punishment for smuggling contraband, penalties for it will still vary from state to state. Any judge or magistrate can impose a more severe sentence at their discretion according to the facts of the case.
Legal Defenses That Most Defendants Use
Since smuggling contraband comes with a severe penalty, the accused usually raise a legal defense. There are three common defenses, and these are:
Some defendants use “no contraband” as a defense by claiming that what they brought inside the jail was not contraband.
An accused can only be punished for something if he or she is aware of bringing contraband inside jail. A defendant cannot be guilty of a crime if he or she doesn’t know that he/she was carrying contraband into the prison.
If another individual threatened the defendant if he or she does not smuggle contraband, then he or she can raise duress as a legal defense.
While smuggling of contraband is prevalent in the US, it is still a serious crime that comes with severe penalties. It is best to contact a criminal defense lawyer, especially if you are wrongly accused.
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About The Author
Franchette Agatha Jardin believes that everyone has the capacity to help those who are in need. She writes blogs about issues and news surrounding those in prison in the hopes of restoring a little extra faith in humanity.