Federal Drug Penalties in New York

The most commonly seen drug charges are conspiracy to distribute narcotics, distribution and possession. Charging participation in the conspiracy is a way to impute liability to certain individual defendants in the absence of direct proof that they possessed or distributed controlled substances, so prosecutors heavily rely on the charge.

Federal charges are seen as more serious than state drug offenses because of the amount of drugs involved and the scope of the narcotics conspiracy network. The amount of drugs that come from Colombia or Mexico are hugely significant compared to a state offense that involves gang members dealing cocaine or heroin. If you find yourself facing drug charges at a federal level, do not hesitate to contact an experienced drug lawyer about your case. 

Impact of a Federal Drug Offense

Long term implications of a federal drug conviction are far-reaching. It is rare to find someone with a federal drug conviction being treated as a normal person in society. It is difficult for someone with a federal drug conviction to get work. People tend to stay away from that person on many levels. They are overlooked by employers and schools and may not be eligible for some federal housing. It is not so easy for someone to get a second chance once they complete their time in jail.

What are the Implications on Someone’s Everyday Life?

In addition to the obvious prison and post-release supervision which likely will accompany a federal drug conviction, virtually every aspect of a person’s life will be affected. It becomes difficult to obtain gainful employment or go back to school to learn a new skill. Getting approved for a mortgage or automobile financing is much more difficult. Law enforcement will frequently reopen investigations into individuals with previous convictions if they receive word of other drug activity going on. Even minor activities, such as applying for a travel visa, become difficult.

Difference from State Drug Offenses

The penalties associated with a federal drug case can be astronomical. The jail time is tremendous for someone possessing with intent to distribute 90 kilograms or more of heroin, or 450 kilograms of cocaine. The base offense level is equivalent to 235 to 293 months in jail, before any of the adjustments.

Someone could be looking at 20 to 25 years based on the amounts of drugs over a period of time. When guns are involved, the person faces a mandatory life sentence in prison.

Treatment of Federal Cases

The penalties for federal cases are more severe, the federal prosecutors are not as overburdened as state prosecutors and therefore have more time and resources to devote to building strong cases. Federal cases also have sentencing guidelines that the individual states do not, which can restrict a judge’s ability to impose a low sentence on a case even if the judge thinks it more appropriate.

Deciding Federal Penalties

Penalties are determined according to the federal sentencing guidelines. A drug quantity table determines the base level. Adjustments related to violence, weapons, threats, whether the person was dealing near a school, or the person is a leader in the narcotics conspiracy are added. There is a mitigating role as well.