The California Department of Justice had been following up on some information about drug trafficking along the border when they happened to notice a ‘suspicious car’ that had entered the U.S. at Calexico. It is not clear what was suspicious about the car, or whether it was related to the DOJ’s investigation. However, the man driving the car was allegedly caught with 18 kilos of cocaine, and has been charged with drug possession with intent to distribute.

It is not clear what was suspicious about the car, but when the DOJ officers noticed it on July 10, they followed it and called in Imperial County sheriff’s detectives to reinforce their authority. Spotting an unnamed vehicle code violation, the agents pulled the car over near the City of Brawley.

Whatever vehicle code violation they spotted evidently gave them the excuse they needed to search the car, including allowing a police dog to sniff the interior. The article in the Los Angeles Times cited a statement by the Attorney General, which apparently did not mention whether the driver, a man from Mexicali, objected to the dogs.

The police dog sniffed around the rear-seat floorboard, and the officers searched more carefully. Ultimately, they claim to have found a hidden compartment containing approximately $360,000 in cocaine wrapped in red tape.

The story did not indicate whether the Mexicali man is a U.S. citizen, a Mexican national or of another nationality, and no mention was made that he was in the country illegally. However, all immigrants need to know that even a minor drug possession charge can threaten your legal immigration status. Even green card holders can be deported if convicted of any drug-related offense.

If you have been charged with drug possession or any drug offense, keep in mind that a conviction could have many consequences beyond the criminal penalties. There are probably more options than you think, and good legal advice is of paramount importance.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “California authorities seize $360,000 of cocaine from car at U.S.-Mexico border,” Sam Quinones, July 21, 2011