In 2002, Maria was staying in the apartment of a friend of her boyfriend’s in Michigan when police raided the apartment and discovered approximately 20 pounds of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. Although police conducting surveillance never witnessed Maria engaged in illegal activity, she ultimately received a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence. She was paroled in March 2009 and deported to Mexico, where she plans to become a criminal defense attorney.
Twenty-three-year-old Maria was living with her family in Mexico, where she held steady employment as a company supervisor. In September 2002, Maria traveled to the United States where her boyfriend was visiting a friend to tell him she might be pregnant. Maria arrived and agreed to stay at the friend’s apartment with her boyfriend. Unbeknownst to Maria, the friend was under police surveillance for suspected drug activity.
Several weeks later, the apartment was raided and officers discovered approximately 20 pounds of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. Maria’s boyfriend’s friend claimed he was storing the drugs in exchange for cash. Although police conducting surveillance never witnessed Maria engage in any illegal activity during their two-week investigation, she was charged with intent to deliver over 650 grams of cocaine.
Maria took her case to trial where she was found guilty. Prior to 1998, Michigan’s “650 Lifer Law” — the delivery or conspiracy to deliver over 650 grams of cocaine or heroin — mandated life without parole. In 1998, FAMM succeeded in its campaign to reform the “650 Lifer Law” and won further sentencing reforms in 2003. Maria benefited from the 1998 reforms, but was ineligible to benefit from the 2003 sentencing reforms and received a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence. The friend was also sentenced to 20 to 40 years. Maria’s boyfriend received 25 to 50 years.
While in prison, Maria put immense effort into achieving academically and personally. At the time of her arrest she spoke no English and has worked hard to master the language. She is enrolled in a University of Michigan mathematics course and a poetry class and has received both excellent behavior and work reports since day one. Unfortunately, she has not been able to see her family for years due to the great distance and cost of travel. Maria was paroled in March 2009 and deported to Mexico. She plans to become a criminal defense attorney to advocate for the many people who suffer from injustice worldwide.