The Brazilian embassy is telling drug mules they will be sent home after serving just two to three years in prison, a lawyer says.
Annabel Maxwell-Scott told the Manukau District Court that her client and others had been given the advice recently and it was unfairly raising their expectations.
Instead, her client Marlon Batista De Macedo was sentenced to eight and-a-half years in prison and will have to serve at least half the sentence before being paroled.
Batista De Macedo was caught entering the country with 2.38kg of cocaine hidden in the lining of his suitcase.
The drugs had an estimated street value of $1.072 million to $1.68 million.
"He's made a terrible mistake and put his hand up for the mistake at the earliest opportunity."
Ms Maxwell-Scott said the 33-year-old had a supportive family who had written to the court.
"They're aware of the devastation drugs cause."
She said her client had been jobless and agreed to bring the drugs into the country out of desperation for a relatively modest amount of money.
Ms Maxwell-Scott said her client should not be sentenced with a minimum term of imprisonment and the stern response should be saved for those higher up the food chain.
She argued he should be subject to the Parole Act - meaning he would be eligible for release after serving just a third of his sentence.
Ms Maxwell-Scott said higher courts had issued decisions saying a minimum term acted as a deterrent to others but it was unlikely drug mules had discussions about minimum jail terms before making the decision to import drugs.
She said, instead, mules were being told by drug cartels that if they were caught they would only be deported.
Ms Maxwell-Scott said there was also misinformation coming from Brazilian embassy staff who meet with Brazilian nationals inside prison.
"Brazilian consulate staff tell them they will be released in two to three years ... I will be speaking with them about that because they're being given unfair expectations."
Ms Maxwell-Scott argued that prison would be hard for Batista De Macedo, who would serve his term in a foreign country where he doesn't speak the language. There was also no way for his family to travel out New Zealand and visit him.
In sentencing, Judge John Bergseng took time off for Batista De Macedo's early guilty plea and his personal circumstances, arriving at an end sentence of eight years and six months.
In setting the minimum term, the judge said deterrence was needed.
"This court has very few tools available to it."