In a series of ongoing posts, our blog has been exploring how the federal courts treat drug charges in an attempt to help people better understand how this seemingly arcane and often unforgiving criminal justice system works.
To that end, we’ve explored how the Controlled Substances Act classifies drugs, and also began discussing how the mandatory minimum sentencing scheme for federal drug crimes came about courtesy of the purely reactive legislation known as the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.
In today’s post, we’ll conclude this discussion by taking a closer look at just how harsh the penalties for a federal drug trafficking conviction can be.
As you have probably surmised, there is a direct correlation between the harshness of mandatory minimum sentences, and both the type of drug and weight involved, meaning the more hazardous a drug is and/or the more of it that was uncovered during the arrest, the longer the potential prison sentence.
By way of example, consider some of the penalties associated with the manufacture and distribution of powdered cocaine, a drug that federal law enforcement officials continue to target with a vengeance:
- First offense: Up to 20 years for less than 500 grams; 5 to 40 years for anywhere between 500 grams to 4999 grams, and 10 years to life for 5-plus kilograms
- Second offense: Up to 30 years for less than 500 grams; 10 years to life for anywhere between 500 grams to 4999 grams, and 20 years to life for 5-plus kilograms
- Third offense: 20 years to life, or life for 5-plus kilograms depending on the sentencing statute invoked
It’s important to understand that if certain aggravating factors are present, such as prior felony drug crime convictions, or serious bodily injury or death resulting in connection with the offense, federal law calls for even higher mandatory minimum sentences.
Please remember that if you have been arrested or are under investigation by federal law enforcement agencies for possible drug-related activities, it’s imperative consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible as the stakes are simply too high.