Federal Drug Crimes

Federal Drug Crimes

Federal Drug Crimes

Both the state governments and the federal government prosecute drug crimes.  The federal government will often involve itself in a drug case if there is a large amount of drugs, or if there are a group of persons working together to transport and sell drugs.  Sometimes a drug case will begin in state court, but then the federal government will take the case and move it into federal court.

Drug cases in federal court frequently involve cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and prescription drugs.

What Are The Penalties In Federal Court For Drug Crimes?
In federal drug cases, a variety of factors will influence the penalty.

Minimum Mandatory Sentences:  Many drug charges involve minimum mandatory sentences.  For example, if a federal case involves at least 500 grams of cocaine, there is a minimum mandatory of 5 years in prison.  If a federal case involves at least 5 kilograms of cocaine, there is a minimum mandatory of 10 years in prison.

The United States Sentencing Guidelines:The United States Sentencing Guidelines is a system that federal judges around the United States use to calculate an advisory sentencing range for defendants.  The guideline sentencing range is called advisory because it is not mandatory – rather, it is a suggested sentencing range of incarceration for the judge to consider along with other sentencing factors.

The sentencing guidelines are designed to take into account the seriousness of an offense, as well as a Defendant’s criminal history.In a drug case, offense seriousness is determined by the weight (and sometimes purity) of the drug.

The guidelines factor a Defendant’s criminal history into the sentencing calculation by assigning points for a Defendant’s prior criminal convictions.  More criminal convictions mean more points and more points mean a longer sentencing guideline range.

21 U.S.C. § 851:If a Defendant has even one prior felony drug conviction, the prosecutor, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, has the power to enhance the current charge, doubling the defendant’s minimum mandatory sentence.  For example, if a Defendant with a prior felony drug conviction is charged with a federal drug offense that carries a 5-year minimum mandatory, and the prosecutor files what is called an “851 Information”, the minimum mandatory will double to 10 years.

18 U.S.C. 924(c): Under this statute, if a person uses, possesses, or carries a firearm during and in relation to any drug trafficking crime, an additional minimum mandatory sentence is added to the sentence that is imposed for the underlying drug case.  The length of the additional sentence depends on the type of the firearm.

For example, if a judge sentences a Defendant to 3 years of prison for a drug charge in which the Defendant carried a handgun, if the Government files an 18 U.S.C. 924(c) charge, then the judge would be obligated to add an additional five-year minimum mandatory sentence, which would not start until after the person had served the 3 years on the drug case. Therefore, the person would serve a total of 8 years in prison.

Even if the Government does not file an 18 U.S.C. 924(c), a Defendant is likely to serve a longer sentence for having carried a firearm during a drug offense, because the sentencing guideline range is increased when a Defendant carries a firearm during a drug offense.

Are you looking for the best federal criminal defense lawyer in Tampa Florida to handle a drug charge? Contact Attorney David C. Hardy.

Tampa Attorney David C. Hardy is a former prosecutor that now represents people in matters related to federal criminal offenses.

Attorney Hardy is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law. In the Federal Courts, he has handled a wide variety of cases including international extradition, drug trafficking, bank fraud, health care fraud, immigration offenses, aggravated identity theft, the misbranding of drugs, and firearms offenses.  He has represented clients in Federal Trial and Appellate Courts in Florida, Texas, and Georgia.

Attorney Hardy has the knowledge, skills, and experience to guide you through this process and obtain the best possible results.  Contact Attorney Hardy for a free consultation.