Understanding Federal Drug Laws and Sentencing Guidelines

Understanding Federal Drug Charges & Sentencing Guidelines

Drug offenses may be prosecuted in state or federal court, depending on the nature of the alleged offense. Defendants accused of drug crimes are often confused about why they are facing charges in federal court, rather than state court. Your best source of information about your case is your criminal defense attorney serving Columbus. Since each case is affected by unique circumstances, you should turn to your federal criminal lawyer for case-specific legal information and guidance.

Federal Drug Charges Federal Drug Laws in Columbus, OH
Crimes such as drug offenses may be prosecuted on the federal level if they involve activity across state lines. For example, drug trafficking may be committed across two or more states. There are a few other ways in which a drug offense is prosecuted under federal criminal law. If you were arrested by a federal officer, you’ll need a federal defense attorney. Or, someone else facing federal drug charges could have provided information about your alleged activities.

Sentencing Guidelines
Federal sentencing guidelines can influence the criminal penalties the judge may issue. In some cases, there are mandatory minimum sentences. The severity of the penalties depends on the type and quantity of drugs involved. If you have prior drug convictions, the penalties for another conviction become more severe. For example, federal statutes call for a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life in prison for a conviction of trafficking 1,000 or more kilograms of marijuana. For a second conviction of this type, defendants face a minimum sentence of 20 years. These lengthy prison terms may be accompanied by fines of up to five million dollars for a first offense committed by an individual.

Sentence Reduction
Despite the mandatory minimum penalties, a skilled criminal law attorney may be able to successfully advocate for a sentence reduction. One way to get your sentence reduced is to provide substantial assistance to officers or prosecutors in the investigation or prosecution of other defendants. Alternatively, you must meet the criteria to be deemed a “safety valve” candidate. These criteria include being a non-violent, first-time offender and having a case that does not include weapons charges.