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The prison sentence you could face for a federal drug crime

On Behalf of | Oct 5, 2023 | Criminal Defense

If you have been arrested and charged with a federal-level drug crime, you are being accused of a very serious crime. All federal charges are considered felony-level, which means a conviction could mean more than a year in prison. A life sentence is even possible in some cases.

The length of sentence you could face if convicted (or if you plead guilty) depends on the type and mass of drug involved. Federal law treats different weights of drugs differently. For example, possession of just 1g of LSD is considered possession with intent to distribute and is equally punishable as possessing 40g of fentanyl and 500g mixture of cocaine.

Schedules and amounts

Drug trafficking is punished at a relatively low level for smaller amounts of drugs but still carries mandatory minimum sentences, which means you almost certainly will go to prison if convicted. A first offense for many Schedule I, II and III drugs like cocaine, heroin and fentanyl carries a prison term of five to 40 years, or 20 to life if death or serious injury was involved. For a second lower-level offense, the sentence guidelines rise to a minimum of 10 years, up to life in prison.

For higher amounts, such as 400g of fentanyl mixture or 100g of fentanyl analogue mixture, the prison guidelines are ten years to life for a first offense. A second offense means 20 years to life, and a third offense requires a life sentence. Each of these sentences also involves fines of potentially millions of dollars per charge.

Schedule IV and V drugs, such as Xanax, Klonopin and Robitussin AC, are punished less severely, with no mandatory minimums and maximum sentences of one to 10 years.

Your best chance at avoiding prison

Even a year behind bars is more than anyone wants to spend. Your only chance at fair treatment is to work with a defense attorney who practices in federal court.