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A closer look at federal drug crimes - II

In a previous post, we began discussing how the Controlled Substances Act classifies drugs into five separate schedules based on such factors as the drug's accepted medical use, potential for abuse and potential for addiction.

We also briefly touched on the fact that defendants facing drug charges at the federal level will spend more than in prison than their counterparts at the state level thanks to steep mandatory minimum sentences.

In today's post, we'll continue this discussion by examining more about the sentencing structure for federal drug crimes.

At the outset, it's important to differentiate between sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentences. In the former, judges are permitted to consider specific factors about the defendant and the offense that they have committed before sentencing them to a prison term somewhere within a broadly predetermined range.

In the latter, judges are given virtually no discretion, meaning they may not hand down a sentence below an already high number of years, and are only able to consider the type and weight of the drug involved.     

The mandatory minimum sentencing scheme for federal drug crimes is the direct product of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which was passed by Congress in a period of relative hysteria over the possible spread of drug abuse and drug-related violence. Indeed, the fallacious belief was that steep mandatory minimum sentences would both put key figures in the drug trade behind bars and curb the rising drug abuse rates.

We'll continue this discussion in future posts, exploring some of the harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences handed down for federal drug trafficking.

It's imperative to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you have been arrested or are under investigation by federal law enforcement agencies for possible drug-related activities.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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