Feliciano Covarrubias was arrested at about 3:00 a.m. on May 6, 2010 at the San Ysidro Port of Entry coming from Mexico to California with 193 pounds of marijuana hidden in his Ford F250. A dog specially designed to detect narcotics smelled the marijuana.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office subsequently charged him with possession of marijuana for sale (Health and Safety Code § 11359) and transporting more than 28.5 grams into California (a violation of Health and Safety Code § 11360(a)). Covarrubias was convicted and sentenced to three years of formal probation with various conditions and 240 days in jail.
He then appealed his conviction, arguing that the trial court violated Evidence Code § 352 by allowing an agent from Immigration Customs Enforcement testify about the structure and practices of drug trafficking organizations, i.e. drug cartels. The agent said he had been involved in hundreds of marijuana smuggling investigations. He testified, furthermore, about the market price of the quantity of marijuana seized, $185,000. Most importantly, he described what a mule was and that in his many years of experience, he had never been involved in a case involving a “blind mule,” i.e. a courier who does not know he is transporting drugs
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