What Are The Federal Drug Sentencing Guidelines?

The below article was written courtesy of The Rosenblum Law Group.

If you have been charged with a federal drug offense then it is important that you read this article to get a better understanding of federal drug charges and their penalties.  The federal court system can be quite complex and a federal drug conviction can result in pretty severe penalties.  Your best option is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney that can advise you about your options and represent you in federal court.

The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, is a United States federal law that classifies narcotics, marijuana and other controlled substances into five classes or schedules.  The schedules allow judges to classify the drugs and attach the required penalties.  The Act also establishes the requirements relating to the manufacture and distribution of drugs and also defines the penalties for federal drug law violations.  Criminal penalties are imposed based on the type of drug involved and the quantity involved.

What Kind Of Drug Crimes Are Considered Federal Offenses?

There are a number of scenarios in which a person can be charged with a federal drug crime.  Crimes can escalate from a state charge to a federal charge rather quickly.  Generally the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) helps investigate drug crimes and enforces federal drug laws.  Federal charges are considered felony crimes which allow for more severe penalties.  Some of the most commons federal drug charges include:

  • Drug trafficking: the manufacturing, distributing and possessing of a controlled dangerous substance with the intent to distribute.  Usually the accused has crossed state lines, or was caught with drugs at an airport  with a large enough quantity of the drugs that intent to distribute was apparent.
  • Manufacturing controlled substances: involves operating a place or facility for the purpose of manufacturing and distributing drugs.

What Are The Federal Sentencing Guidelines For Drug Related Crimes?

In 1984, Congress gave authority to the United States Sentencing Commission to create written guidelines for all federal crimes in an effort to provide more proportional sentencing for similar criminal situations.  Prior to 2005, judges were forced to strictly adhere to the sentencing guidelines and had limited secretion to deviate from the mandatory minimum sentences.  The Supreme Court decided in the Booker v. United States that judges will be granted more flexibility and should sentence individuals no greater than necessary to achieve the purpose of punishment.

It should be noted however that if certain relevant factors exist in a person’s case such as a high quantity of drugs or weapons were involved then the judge will have little discretion to avoid the mandatory minimum for sentencing guidelines.  Generally a judge does have some discretion to avoid imposing the mandatory minimums in cases where the person accused of the drug charge is a nonviolent, low-level, first time offender that did not carry a weapon and cooperated with the government to provide any and all information related to the case.  For a detailed listing of the Federal Sentencing guidelines related to drug offenses please refer to the following chart.  

If you are being charged with a federal drug crime, your first call should be to a licensed criminal defense attorney that can help your fight the charges.

Author Bio

Adam Rosenblum is a licensed criminal attorney in the Federal Courts in both New York and New Jersey.