Federal law prohibits the manufacture, distribution, possession with intent, or dispensing of a variety of drugs that include marijuana, cocaine, heroine, and methamphetamine. The applicable Federal law is 21 U.S.C. § 841 and 21 U.S.C. § 960. Those accused of Federal drug offenses should take the matter seriously and work with an experienced attorney to properly handle the case.
Federal law treats marijuana distribution less seriously than it treats other drugs, although the penalties can still be quite harsh. The lowest class of marijuana distribution charges at the Federal level, which covers cases where under 50 KG is alleged to have been distributed, can result in 5 year prison sentence. As the amount of marijuana increases, so does the maximum penalty for those convicted.
Federal charges for cocaine, and cocaine base (crack cocaine) can result in a significant Federal prison sentence. For those convicted of distributing under 500 grams of cocaine or under 5 grams of crack cocaine, a sentence of up to 20 years in prison can be imposed by court. For larger amounts, the mandatory minimums and maximum sentences increase dramatically. Some of the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine has been removed from Federal sentencing guidelines, although there remains a notable difference in the severity of a sentence for those convicted of distribution of powder cocaine compared to cocaine base.
Heroine charges at the Federal level are quite serious and can result a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison on a first offense. A second offense can result in a mandatory minimum of 20 years, and a maximum of life in prison. Fines can reach in to the millions of dollars, and Federal prosecutors are known to pursue such fines and asset seizure.
For those convicted of distribution of methamphetamine, also called crystal meth, even a first-offense can result in a 5 year prison sentence for as little as 5 grams. For over 50 grams on a first offense, a 10 year Federal prison sentence can be imposed.
Other important considerations in Federal drug cases
Depending upon the amount of drugs that were allegedly distributed and a person’s criminal record, it is possible that a Federal drug charge can raise a presumption that the person should not be granted pretrial release. In such cases, properly handling the detention hearing is especially vital.
In cases where a person is accused of supplying drugs that resulted in an injury or death, the penalties can be greatly increased. For example, a fist-time conviction for distribution of crack cocaine where a person dies can result in a life sentence. Injury or death can also result in a person being ineligible for probation or a suspended sentence.
Fines in Federal drug cases can be significant, reaching into the millions of dollars for both individuals and businesses. Asset seizure and forfeiture, which are separate from the criminal charges, are also often brought by Federal prosecutors.
As is the case for all Federal charges, the Federal sentencing guidelines play a significant role in determining what sort of sentence a person faces if convicted for a Federal drug offense. As such, working with one’s attorney to carefully run the sentencing guidelines and consider all relevant factors is vital.