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Mandatory Minimums for Federal Drug Sentencing

Being charged with a federal drug crime could mean a serious punishment if the accused is found guilty. In Texas, there are mandatory minimum sentences for someone found guilty of a federal drug crime.

What are Federal Drug Crimes?

State and federal drug crimes are similar in the fact that they both involve illegal drugs, but when being charged with a federal crime, the punishment could be much more severe. Examples of federal drug crimes include:

  • drug manufacturing (the creation of a drug);
  • drug trafficking (intentionally manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance);
  • drug conspiracy (knowingly agree to violate drug laws); and,
  • possession of a controlled substance (knowingly or intentionally having a controlled substance). This does not include those who have valid prescriptions or a medical license.

The most common type of federal charge occurs when the offense involves crossing state lines. When this happens, it would be difficult for one state jurisdiction to charge the individual and not have the other state or states do it, so that is why the case is taken to the federal level.

The quantity of the drug involved in the crime could also lead to federal charges. A person could face drug trafficking or distribution charges with the amount of drugs found on them at the time of arrest or after a search warrant is executed. Smaller quantities of drugs found on a person will usually lead to state charges rather than federal.

Additionally, someone could be charged with a federal drug crime if the offense happened on federal property or involved an undercover federal agent. Another way someone could be charged with a federal crime is if the accused sold drugs to people under the age of 21 or in a school zone.

What Are the Mandatory Sentences?

When convicted of a federal drug crime, a judge is usually guided by mandatory punishments. These penalties are defined by the type of offense called a schedule. The United States Drug Enforcement Association has broken the offenses into five schedules:

  • Schedule I - these are drugs with no acceptable medical use and have a high potential for abuse
  • Schedule II - these are also drugs with a high risk of potential abuse that could lead to physical or psychological dependence.
  • Schedule III, Schedule IV, and Schedule V each have less risk for potential abuse or dependence with Schedule III being more severe than Schedule IV, and Schedule IV being more severe than Schedule V.

Depending on the quantity of drugs involved in the crime, and the type of schedule the drug is classified under determines how long someone convicted of a federal drug crime will face.

The most serious offenses (most crimes involving Schedule I or Schedule II) have the harshest punishments. For a first offense, someone would face a penalty of a minimum of five years, but not more than 40 years, in prison and a fine of up to $5 million. If death or serious injury was also involved in the crime, the criminal would spend a minimum of 20 years, but not more than life, in prison. If it’s a second offense, the penalties are even harsher — a minimum of 10 years in prison but not more than life in prison. If death or serious injury was involved in the crime, a person will be sentenced to life in prison. The fine is also more serious - up to $8 million.

Most Schedule III drug offenses will also result in prison time. For a first offense, a maximum of 10 years in prison is issued along with a fine of up to $500,000. If it’s a second offense, the prison time is up to 20 years and a fine up to $1 million.

Most Schedule IV offenses have a punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for a first offense. A second offense means a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

Schedule V has the least severe punishments compared to the other schedules. For a first offense, the sentence is no more than one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. A second offense means no more than four years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.

When facing federal drug crimes, you’ll want an experienced attorney to be with you and help you fight. That’s why so many have turned to Attorney Patrick McLain. He knows the federal court system since he is a former federal prosecutor. With his more than 30 years of legal experience, you’ll have an advocate with you every step of the way. Call Patrick today to see how he can help — (214) 238-9392