Federal drug crimes often carry mandatory minimum sentences that severely limit a judge’s discretion in determining the length of a convicted offender’s prison term. Although many of these federal drug charges have state equivalents, they often result in more severe sentences. The mandatory minimum sentencing laws that were originally designed to target serious drug traffickers and manufacturers have resulted in unjustifiably long prison terms for minor offenders. Therefore, groups such as the Human Rights Watch and others have criticized these laws as the cause of grossly disproportionate sentences and have called for their repeal.

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, drug cases were the most commonly prosecuted by the federal government. A total of 20,115 federal drug offenders were convicted and sentenced in FY 2015, and almost half (47.9 percent) were convicted of offenses that carried mandatory minimum sentences. The Commission reported that the average sentence for these offenders was 124 months, while those convicted of federal drug charges that did not have a mandatory minimum penalty attached were sentenced to an average of 39 months in prison.

If you or someone you care about has been charged by federal prosecutors with a drug crime, the potential consequences of a conviction can be severe, including lengthy prison terms and hefty fines. Fienman Defense can provide you with a compassionate and aggressive advocate to help protect your rights and get a favorable outcome in your case. Contact an experienced Philadelphia drug crime attorney at (215) 839-9529 for an initial consultation.

Federal Jurisdiction and Sentencing

A crime will usually fall within the federal court’s jurisdiction if the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), FBI, or other federal law enforcement agency is leading the investigation. Additionally, if the crime was committed on federal property or across state lines, it may be considered a federal offense. There are instances when both state and federal prosecutors will file charges.

Additionally, federal sentencing guidelines tend to be stricter than existing state guidelines, including Pennsylvania’s sentencing laws. For example, under Pennsylvania statute, the charge of drug trafficking involving marijuana may be sentenced as follows:

  • If the charge involves more than 30 grams of Marijuana but less than 2 pounds, it is a felony that carries a prison term of one to three years and a fine of between $5,000 and $25,000.
  • If the amount of the drug involved is more than 2 pounds but less than 10 pounds, there is a mandatory one-year prison term and a fine of at least $10,000.
  • If there is at least 10 pounds but less than 50 pounds of marijuana involved, the crime carries a mandatory 3-year term and $15,000 fine.
  • If the charge involves 50 pounds of the drug or more, then it carries a mandatory 5-year prison term and $50,000 fine.

However, under federal sentencing guidelines, the sentences are two to five times harsher.

  • Trafficking less than 50 kilos of marijuana can carry up to five years in prison for a first offense, and up to 10 years for a second or subsequent offenses. The fine can be up to $250,000 for the first offense and $500,000 for second or subsequent offenses.
  • If the trafficking charge involves 50 to 99 kilos of marijuana, first offenders may be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and $1,000,000 in fines.
  • For trafficking between 100 to 999 kilos of marijuana, there is a minimum 5-year sentence up to 40 years in prison and a fine up to $5,000,000.
  • If the crime involves 1,000 kilos of marijuana or more, the minimum sentence is 10 years, with the possibility of a life sentence. Second of subsequent offenses will be sentenced to no less than 20 years in prison.

Fienman Defense Can Help You Today

Regardless of the circumstances of your arrest, you have the right to have an effective advocate by your side. With federal drug charges, federal prosecutors and law enforcement will devote extensive resources to achieve a conviction. Fienman Defense will work hard on your behalf to investigate and analyze the facts of your case and mount an effective defense.

Call Philadelphia drug crime attorney Michael Fienman at (215) 839-9529 to discuss your case and figure out your next steps.

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