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The Champion

January-February 2018 , Page 46 

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Busted at the Border: Duress and Blind Mule Defenses in Border-Crossing Cases

By Walter I. Gonçalves, Jr.

Duress and blind mule claims are often the only means to defend a case of drugs or other illegal cargo imported from another country to the United States. For illegal entry cases under 8 U.S.C. §§ 1325 or 1326, aside from a claim of U.S. citizenship, duress may be the only viable defense. Although mostly seen along the border, duress and blind mule defenses also apply to domestic contraband cases. The defenses are important to understand and master due to the prevalence of drug and immigration cases in border districts. In fiscal year 2016, for example, criminal prosecutions for immigration violations made up 29.6 percent of all federal prosecutions, while drug cases accounted for 31.6 percent.1 It is not a coincidence that most of these cases come from border districts.2 

This article analyzes important case law on the duress instruction, the use of duress experts for trial, and imperfect duress at sentencing. For blind mule defenses, it analyzes “structure” evidence,

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