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Arizona Law Could Get Tougher On Those Engaged In Human Smuggling Transportation

February 11, 2022

By Terri Jo Neff |

Prosecutors in Arizona’s border counties have long complained of having no consequential option for charging people who engage in transportation of undocumented non-U.S. citizens (UNCs), but that could substantially change if Senate Bill 1379 is enacted.

It is currently only a Class 1 misdemeanor under Arizona Revised Statute 13-2929 if a person “unlawfully transports, moves, conceals, harbors or shields undocumented immigrants.” A Class 1 misdemeanor conviction provides for a jail (not prison) sentence of no more than six months, and in many courts it can take that long just to get a case to trial.

But SB1379 would reclassify human smuggling transportation activities involving one UNC as a Class 6 felony, making prison time an option. Felony convictions also trigger a loss of many civil rights, including the right to possess or use a firearm.

In addition, the bill would allow state and county prosecutors to charge those involved in the transportation of 2 or more UNCs with a Class 4 felony. This significantly changes the current group prosecution option under ARS 13-2929, which requires at least 10 UNCs to be in a vehicle in order to charge as a Class 6 felony.

SB1379 even redefines who can be charged under state law with engaging in human smuggling transportation. Currently a person must already be in violation of another “criminal offense” in order to be charged under ARS 13-2929. The bill rewords that prerequisite to a violation of a criminal “law or statute.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB1379 on Thursday. It is waiting to clear the Senate Rules Committee next.

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