Penalties for Federal Drug Convictions

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 What Type of Penalties Arise from a Federal Drug Conviction?

The most common type of penalty that arises in connection with a federal drug conviction is a prison sentence. Unlike most state laws, federal law imposes mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines when a defendant is convicted of a drug crime. This means that a crime that may be considered a misdemeanor in certain states, can be charged as a felony offense and may lead to a prison sentence under federal law.

Some examples of federal drug crimes include federal drug trafficking, drug manufacturing, and distributing drugs across state lines, on federal property, and/or between international borders.

Thus, if you are facing charges for a federal drug offense, then it may be in your best interest to hire a local drug lawyer immediately for further assistance with your case.

Aside from Prison Time, What Penalties Can Result from a Federal Drug Conviction?

Aside from mandatory minimum sentences that provide a fixed length of prison time based on certain factors, there are several other types of criminal penalties that federal law may impose on defendants who are convicted of committing a federal drug crime. The following list offers some of the most common examples of the types of federal criminal penalties that one can receive after being convicted of a federal drug crime.

Such penalties can include:

  • Denial of federal benefits: A federal drug conviction may lead to the loss of federal benefits that a defendant was previously receiving before being convicted, such as school loans, grants, licenses or permits, and certain government contracts for business purposes.
    • For instance, a defendant who is convicted of the crime of federal drug trafficking may lose any federal benefits they receive for up to five years for a first-time conviction, up to ten years for a second-time conviction, and finally, a permanent denial of federal benefits if they are convicted for federal drug trafficking for a third time.
      • On the other hand, a federal drug conviction for drug possession may result in the denial of federal benefits for up to one year for a first-time offender, and up to five years for a subsequent conviction.
  • Forfeiture of personal property and real estate: An individual who has been convicted of a federal drug offense is automatically punishable for a bare minimum of one full year in federal prison. If that punishment exceeds the one full year minimum, then the convicted defendant will be forced to give up any personal property or real estate that they own to the United States federal government.
    • However, this punishment specifically only applies to property involved in the crime, such as houses, cars, and/or other personal belongings that the defendant owned or used to carry out the criminal offense. It also should be noted that a warrant of seizure may be issued by the court and thus this property can be seized at the same time that a suspect is arrested on the charges that may lead to the forfeiture of that property.
      • As an example, suppose a person used their car to transport large quantities of drugs across state lines for commercial purposes (e.g., selling them to others for use or further distribution). The federal government may obtain a warrant to seize their car as well as their person since it would be considered as a tool that was used to help the defendant commit the crime.
  • Criminal fines and other special conditions: Depending on the drug crime that a defendant is convicted of, some mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines may also impose a criminal fine in addition to a prison sentence. Some drug crimes may even warrant specific penalties for a conviction under federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.
    • For example, the penalties associated with the federal crime of drug trafficking will vary in accordance with the weight and/or quantity of the controlled substance or illegal drug involved in the criminal transaction. If a defendant is convicted for drug trafficking on two separate occasions, any subsequent penalties issued by the court will be much harsher than the previous punishment they had received.
      • In addition, if bodily harm or death resulted from the use of a controlled substance or illegal drug that was distributed, trafficked, or manufactured by the defendant and illegally sold or given to another party, then a convicted defendant can face a prison term of no less than twenty years in a federal prison, with fines ranging upwards of $8 million USD.
  • Civil penalties: A court may impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000 on a criminal defendant for possession of a small quantity of a controlled or illegal substance, regardless of whether criminal prosecution was pursued against the defendant or not.

In addition, a defendant who has been convicted of a federal drug crime will also face several consequences that impact their daily life. For example, it may be harder for a defendant who has been convicted of a federal drug crime to get a job since they have both a drug charge and a stint in prison on their criminal record. The defendant is also considered a felon, which may be an issue since many job posts explicitly state that a job candidate must not have a criminal record.

Another problem that a convicted criminal defendant might encounter is that they could be denied an application for suitable housing or to obtain a loan. This is especially true in cases where the defendant had their personal property and real estate seized. Oftentimes, such property will not be returned to them and thus they may not be left with many financial options after they are released from prison.

Another issue that frequently arises with cases involving federal criminal drug convictions is that the defendant may have their parental rights completely or partially terminated and thus can lose custody of their children. This may also mean that the defendant loses visitation rights as well.

One last problem that a defendant may face after a federal drug conviction is that they may not be allowed to vote in elections. Again, this is due to the fact that persons deemed to be felons or who have served time in federal prison will be forced to give up their right to vote under federal law.

Should I Contact a Defense Attorney?

If you are facing charges for a federal drug crime, it is strongly recommended that you consult with a local drug lawyer immediately for further legal guidance. A lawyer who has experience in handling federal drug charges will be able to inform you of both your rights and the consequences if you are convicted of those charges.

Your lawyer can also perform legal research to determine whether there are any defenses available that you can raise against the charges. Your lawyer will be able to answer any questions or concerns you may have about federal drug crimes as well.

In addition, your lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected as a criminal defendant and can present a solid defensive argument against the charges. By presenting solid evidence and presenting a strong defense, your lawyer may also be able to assist you in getting those charges dropped or reduced.

Finally, if you need someone to represent you in court or during negotiations with a prosecutor to strike a plea deal, your lawyer will be able to provide legal representation on your behalf at either of these proceedings as well.

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