While the answer to this question may obviously be “prison,” it is important to remember that unlike most states, the federal government has mandatory minimum sentences. This means that a minor infraction according to state laws can lead to a long prison term in federal court.
Other than mandatory sentences in federal prison, there are additional penalties the federal government can impose on drug offenders. The following are the most common examples of federal penalties for drug convictions:
- Denial of Federal Benefits – A federal drug conviction may result in the loss of federal benefits, including school loans, grants, contracts, and licenses. Federal drug trafficking convictions may result in denial of federal benefits for up to 5 years for a first conviction, 10 years for a second conviction, and permanent denial of federal benefits for a third conviction. Federal drug convictions for possession may result in denial of federal benefits for up to 1 year for a first conviction and up to 5 years for subsequent convictions.
- Forfeiture of Personal Property and Real Estate – Any person convicted of a federal drug offense punishable by more than one year in prison shall forfeit to the United States any personal or real property related to the violation, including houses, cars, and other personal belongings. A warrant of seizure may be issued and property seized at the time an individual is arrested on charges that may result in forfeiture.
- Special Circumstances – Penalties for federal drug trafficking convictions vary according to the quantity of the controlled substance involved in the transaction. Penalties for subsequent convictions are twice as severe. If death or serious bodily injury results from the use of a controlled substance which has been illegally distributed, the person convicted on federal charges of distributing the substance faces a prison term of not less than 20 years, but not more than life, and fines ranging up to $8 million.
- Civil Penalties – Civil penalties of up to $10,000 may also be imposed for possession of small amounts of controlled substances, whether or not criminal prosecution is pursued.
If you have been convicted of any federal drug crime, you should consult a criminal law attorney. If you feel that any of the above penalties or consequences applies to you, an attorney will be able to explain what your options are and negotiate the best resolution of your case.