Overview Of Federal Drug Offenses
Any hopes of a successful appeal of a federal drug conviction must start with hiring the right attorney. The areas of law with which the attorney you hire should be familiar with are:
- Manufacturing and distribution of a controlled substance
- Conspiracy to possess, distribute, or manufactrue a controlled substance
- Importing controlled substances
- Exporting controlled substances
- Conspiracy to export or import controlled substances
The type and quantity of a controlled substance will be the most important factors when a sentence is given for a federal drug conviction. A minimum and maximum range of punishment can be found at 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b) and 960(b). However, it is important to remember a judge possesses the power to increase the maximum sentence if certain circumstances exist.
When a drug offense includes a serious bodily injury, the minimum sentence is 20 years in federal prison. The maximum sentence under this circumstance is life imprisonment. Additionally, an individual who has a previous federal drug conviction and is convicted on new federal drug charges faces a significantly increased sentence.
An understanding of federal sentencing guidelines is important to the process of appealing a federal drug conviction.
Federal Drug Charges and Crimes Explained
Drug-related crimes are distinguished by federal drug statutes. These statutes will determine the seriousness of the crime and the punishment given to the offender. Drug-related offenses included under federal drug statutes are:
Distribution, possession with the intent to deliver, and manufacturing of controlled substances are all included under drug trafficking charges.
Manufacturing is an extremely serious federal drug offense and includes growing and producing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute. These cases usually involve large amounts of a controlled substance.
When an individual acts in concert with others to import, produce, or distribute a controlled substance, a drug conspiracy charge can be the result. The prosecutor must prove the defendant knew the conspiracy was taking place.
Protected Location Offense
The distribution of drugs to persons in a school zone or who are under the age of 21 is considered an offense of protected location.
Federal Drug Schedules
The Controlled Substance Act was created to consolidate the changes that have taken place with federal drug laws over the years. The CSA separates drug charges into ‘schedules’ and groups drugs according to the danger they pose to individuals and their communities.
- Schedule 1 – Ecstasy, LSD, Heroin, and Marijuana
- Schedule 2 – Morphine and Cocaine
- Schedule 3 – Marinol, Vicodin, Anabolic Steroids
- Schedule 4 – Valium, Ambien, Xanax
- Schedule 5 – Cough Suppresants and Lyrica
Sentencing Guidelines And Enhancements
There are a number of factors that will influence the sentence a defendant receives for a federal drug offense. These factors include:
- Prior convictions
- Presence of firearms
- The schedule and quantity of the controlled substance
2014 Sentencing Guidelines Reduction
A unanimous vote was given in 2014 by the Sentencing Commission of the United States to reduce sentencing guidelines for drug traffickers. The Commission decided a few months later that these reductions could be applied retroactively.
Appealing A Conviction
If you have been sentenced for a drug-related offense in a federal court, you still have options. You should seek the services of an attorney who possesses the knowledge and skill necessary to fight on your behalf in a federal appeals court. There are time limitations regarding the appeals process so the sooner you contact an attorney the better.