Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Drug Charges

Your New Jersey federal defense lawyer can advocate for you if you have been charged with a federal drug crime. In addition to understanding the prosecutor’s evidence, your new jersey federal defense lawyer has experience navigating the complex sentencing guidelines.

Mandatory Minimums

As your New Jersey federal defense lawyer can advise, the majority of federal drug crimes prosecuted involve drug trafficking. Sentencing guidelines depend on factors including:

  • Type of drug
  • Amount of drug
  • Prior convictions
  • Whether a death resulted from the crime.

If convicted, your New Jersey federal defense attorney will explain the mandatory minimum sentences, which can range from 5 to 10 years, or even more. With prior convictions, that time doubles. The more of the drug possessed the longer the potential sentence. If the crime resulted in the death of another, the jail time will be 20 years to life. It is crucial that you discuss your charges with a New Jersey federal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Aggravating Factors

A New Jersey federal defense lawyer knows that judges can impose even harsher sentences than the statutes allow. 21 U.S.C. §§841-865 contains a host of extenuating circumstances that could enhance a defendant’s sentence for charges such as drug trafficking, conspiracy, organized drug crime, or even simple possession. A New Jersey federal defense lawyer can discuss the specifics. Generally, courts look at the following:

  • Prior convictions (e.g., for trafficking, jail time jumps from 5 to 10 years for certain drug types and amounts)
  • Whether a death resulted (e.g., for organized crime, the sentence can jump from life imprisonment to death)
  • Location of offense (sentence is doubled if committed near a truck stop or school)
  • Sale to a minor (double jail time or more)
  • Gun/weapon used

“Safety Valve” Relief

Defendants with little or no prior criminal history may be eligible for “safety valve” relief, which reduces the potential sentence when the person meets certain criteria, including that (1) he or she does not have more than 1 criminal history point under the federal sentencing guidelines; (2) he or she did not use violence or threats of violence or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon in connection with the offense; (3) no death or serious injury resulted from the offense; (4) he or she was not an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor of others in the offense; and (5) that by the sentencing hearing, he or she truthfully provided all information about the offense to the government. Most importantly, “safety valve” relief allows the judge to sentence below the above-discussed “mandatory minimums.”

Finally, courts can impose property forfeiture and hefty civil fines payable regardless of the defendant’s income. The penalties may be imposed consecutively.

Contact a New Jersey Federal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing federal drug charges, don’t delay. Contact New Jersey federal defense lawyer Tim Anderson today at 732-212-2812.


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