Penalties For Federal Drug Crimes in DC

Penalties can be mostly prison terms and in certain circumstances up to life imprisonment. Oftentimes, we see double digit prison sentences particularly if an individual, who has been convicted in federal court, has any kind of prior criminal history.

If they were convicted in a drug case that involved a conspiracy with other individuals and a large amount of drugs, they’re going to expect to go away to prison for quite some time. In addition, there can be fines levied in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Generally, those fines will not be imposed nearly at the maximum, understanding that an individual who is going into prison for many years is not going to be in a position to be able to pay back large fines. So we typically see large prison sentences with small to moderate fines making it imperative that a Federal drug crimes lawyer is contacted.

How Are Penalties Determined?

There are federal sentencing guidelines. These guidelines were adjudicated to not be mandatory anymore. For many years, judges were required to follow these guidelines to determine the amount of time one would serve in prison based on the offense and other factors.

Several years ago, those guidelines technically became advisory as opposed to mandatory. Having said that, federal judges still rely upon them almost as if they were mandatory because they have been in place for decades. The fact that they are now just advisory and not mandatory, in a practical sense, hasn’t made that much difference. But what will happen is the judge will look at an individual’s background, what they’re charged with, and what they’re being convicted of.

Other factors are taken in to consideration including how much drugs, how much money, how many other people were involved, and how long the conduct was involved. All these factors are weighed and a score of how many points are against that person is determined.  That score is then inserted into the sentencing guidelines matrix and it pops out the number or range of numbers as to what the appropriate sentence would be.

Now, a good defense attorney will know what areas can be successfully argued for reduction. There are certain areas where successful arguments can be made to convince the court to either not impose a sentence under the guidelines or to deviate below the recommended sentence of the guidelines, or, at the very least, give a sentence on the bottom range of the guidelines. This is why it is important to have good counsel to make sure that the minimum sentence possible could be obtained. 

Mitigating Factors in Federal Drug Sentencing

Well, in a situation where a client is facing punishment in a drug case, it’s important that the client is fully and properly presented to the court. It is important to have a sense of what their background is, what challenges have they overcome, and what challenges were they facing at the time of the offense in question. What possible benefit can they be to society? What are their family support systems?  What are their ties to the community and their skills or talents?

In any case where there is a client who’s possibly facing a sentence by the court, a defense attorney should make every effort to make sure that they have completely explained, in the best possible way, who the client is. The court needs to see the client as more than just a name and a number appearing before the court.  A defense attorney should make sure that every possible area has been examined, under the sentencing guidelines, where it can justify a departure or a minimization of the penalty.

Other Consequences of a Federal Drug Conviction

A federal drug conviction will stay on your record permanently. You’re not going to be able to get it expunged so you’ll have this conviction on your record for law enforcement to consider all the way down the line. In other words, if you ever get in trouble again, they’re going to be able to see that you have this prior conviction. That prior drug conviction can trigger enhancements if you are ever convicted of a similar offense. It will have negative consequences for the defendant in employment and in trying to seek and obtain certain state or federal government benefits. These are just some of the farreaching negative ramifications after a conviction for a federal drug offense. 

DC Federal Drug Attorney