Approximately one third of all federal criminal prosecutions are for drug offenses, whether it be the sale, distribution, importation, manufacture or possession of narcotics - and the penalties for this crime can be devastating, with lengthy mandatory minimum prison terms frequently imposed as a result of a conviction. This does not just include hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin, but also prescription drugs, K2/Spice and even marijuana; in fact, as recently as 2015, approximately one quarter of all federal drug prosecutions involved only the possession, distribution or sale of marijuana.
Specifically, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(a), unless otherwise authorized by statute, it is unlawful for anyone to either knowingly or intentionally manufacture, distribute, dispense or possess with intent to do the same, any controlled or counterfeit substance. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b) then sets forth the applicable penalties for this crime, which are largely dependent on the weight and drug type at issue. For example, in a case involving 280 grams of cocaine base, one kilogram of heroin, five kilograms of cocaine or 1000 kilograms of marijuana, a defendant is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment upon conviction - and worse, if the use of the substance at issue resulted in death or serious bodily injury, or if the defendant committed the crime after previously committing another felony drug offense, the mandatory minimum sentence becomes 20 years imprisonment. Worse still, if both serious bodily injury or death occurred as a result of this drug and the defendant had previously been convicted of a felony drug offense, the mandatory minimum sentence becomes life imprisonment.
Similarly, in a case involving just 28 grams of cocaine base, 100 grams of heroin, 500 grams of cocaine, or 100 kilograms of marijuana, a defendant is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of 40 years imprisonment upon conviction; the minimum then increases to 10 years imprisonment if the defendant has previously been convicted of a felony drug offense and 20 years if death or serious bodily injury resulted from the use of the drug at issue. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B). Further, a defendant in a case involving another Schedule I or II controlled substance [21 U.S.C. § 812] and with no other aggravating factors may be punished by up to 20 years imprisonment; and a defendant in a case involving less than 50 kilograms of marijuana may be punished by up to five years imprisonment, which is then increased to 10 years imprisonment should that defendant have previously been convicted of a felony drug crime. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C)-(D). Finally, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 846, any individual who attempts or conspires to commit any of the aforementioned drug offenses shall be punished by these same, stiff penalties.
An additional discussion about federal drug offenses can be found here: Prescription Drug Offenses.
Having a top criminal defense attorney defend you in any federal narcotics prosecution is crucial. Retaining a lawyer who has a wealth of experience with these charges, such as those at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman, will ensure that every potential defense is exploited - and if an acquittal is not possible, to fight in your corner and make sure that the lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences described above will not be applied to your case. Contact us today at (212) 581-1001 for a free consultation.