What is Contraband?
What do a pirate’s booty, a runaway slave and a cigarette have in common? They may seem entirely unrelated, but under certain conditions or at some point in history, each of these things has been thought of as contraband.
To fit the description, an object need not be illegal in and of itself. Some earn the honor by default when the people who possess or transfer them have done so in illegal ways. For this reason, the term will cover items that have been:
- Forged, counterfeited or otherwise illegally produced.
- Purchased with money obtained through fraudulent means.
- Obtained while evading payment of taxes or import duties.
On the other hand, some items are by definition contraband regardless of how a person may have acquired or dealt with them. The category includes such things as illegal drugs, obscene materials and unlicensed weapons. A person who possesses, trades, imports or exports items like these will therefore be dealing in contraband.
In wartime, contraband can also refer to anything that a nation describing itself as neutral might provide as aid to a country engaged in battle. According to international law, such contraband goods are by their nature subject to confiscation. During the Civil War, the North even applied the term to fleeing slaves who had joined forces with or been captured by the Union.
Contraband and its Legal Implications
Anyone who produces, conceals, buys, sells, rents, distributes, transfers or unlawfully handles a contraband item can face prosecution on felony charges. Nevertheless, law enforcement cannot simply walk into anyone’s home and seize the items in question. The Fourth Amendment protects every United States citizen against unlawful search and seizure. This means that in most cases, the police cannot invade your living quarters for any reason without a search warrant.
There are, however, situations in which a warrant won’t be necessary. The police can legally confiscate any contraband item that it happens to find in a public location or otherwise hiding in plain sight. They can also search you or your vehicle with nothing more than a reasonable suspicion that you may be harboring one or more contraband items or are in possession of any object, illicit or otherwise, that threatens to put them or others in danger.
Contraband at the State and Federal Levels
On the Federal scene, anyone who possesses or otherwise unlawfully handles contraband can be charged with a felony. Those guilty of this crime can face penalties that include significant fines and jail sentences of five years and more.
The state of Nevada has its own guidelines for regulating the transfer and possession of contraband. For example, anyone found guilty for the second time of possessing or selling illicit tobacco products valued at $250 or more (NRS 370.405) can face category C punishments consisting of fines up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of between one and five years.
Contraband in Prison
The state of Nevada also has rules spelling out what items are and are not permissible for an inmate to possess in its prisons. For any person serving time behind bars in Nevada, forbidden items include: – Knives, guns, explosives and other dangerous weapons.
- Street drugs.
- Prescription medication and other controlled substances.
- Telecommunication devices that facilitate contact with the outside world.
Any prisoner caught in possession of contraband items will automatically face additional charges and could add several more years to his or her time behind bars if found guilty.
Nevertheless, many people routinely smuggle contraband into jails and prisons across the country, and the inmates’ friends and families are not the only ones guilty of this infraction. Corrections officers and other prison employees have also taken the bait, accepting bribes to provide convicts with things they want and cannot otherwise obtain.
The law applies with equal force to prisoners and providers alike. Anyone involved in the exchange of forbidden items within the walls of a penal institution can face indictment for dealing in contraband.
Contraband Concerns and Your Criminal Defense
If the law has accused you of the production, possession or transmission of contraband, it’s important to realize that a conviction on these charges will have serious ramifications. The help of expert criminal defense attorneys can be your best hope of bringing your case to a positive conclusion.
You will find these attorneys at Weiner Law Group. Don’t let charges related to contraband destroy your life and the lives of those around you. Please call today at 702-202-0500 to speak with one of our qualified lawyers and learn of the ways in which we will work to protect your interests and maximize your chance for a successful outcome.