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Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Drugs

In the United States, the most serious drug offenses are prosecuted by the federal government. The government has created federal sentencing guidelines to make the judiciary more efficient. The United States Sentencing Guidelines establish punishments for drug convictions through the use of mandatory minimum sentences and drug trafficking penalties.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences

A mandatory minimum sentence is imposed if a drug offender is convicted of specific possession charges. The federal court sentencing guidelines determine the length of the sentence based on the weight and type of the drugs involved in the case. “Harder” drugs, or those that are considered more dangerous, are associated with the longest sentences.

For example, if someone is convicted on a possession charge for 500 grams or more of powder cocaine, they will receive a mandatory 5-year prison term according to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. This prison term does not allow for parole.

Federal Drug Trafficking Penalties

Mandatory sentences also apply for certain levels of drug distribution. Small-time dealers will usually only face charges at the local or state level but drug pushers who are caught with large quantities can face federal charges. United States federal sentencing guidelines allow harsher punishments for drug crimes as the amount of drugs involved in a case goes up.

For instance, a person found to be in possession of 5-49 grams of pure methamphetamine or 50-499 grams of a methamphetamine mixture can face no less than 5 years and no more than 40 years in federal prison. For a single offender, a fine of up to $2 million can be assessed upon a guilty verdict.

United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Drugs

In some drug cases, federal prosecutors can use the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines to issue a different penalty type, as opposed to using mandatory minimum sentences or trafficking charges. In these situations, United States federal court sentencing guidelines allow the judge to consider factors that can affect the severity of the punishment.

For example, a judge may consider the fact that a defendant cooperated with police and agree to reduce the length of the prison sentence by several months.

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