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Sentencing for Drug Crimes

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What Are Drug Crimes?

The federal and state governments have laws that make the possession, use, manufacturing, and distribution of some drugs illegal. A person has committed a drug crime when they make, use, possess, or distribute the illegal drugs.

Are State and Federal Sentencing for Drug Crimes Different?

Yes, states usually follow the federal Controlled Substances Act when classifying drug possession as a crime. However, many states have their own drug crime sentences. Federal drug crimes carry a harsher punishment and longer sentence than state drug convictions.

How Are Mandatory Drug Sentences Determined?

A mandatory minimum drug crime sentence is the absolute least amount of time a person will spend in prison. When sentencing a person for drug crimes, a federal judge must consider a number of factors, including:


The mandatory minimum does not take into consideration any other factors that would decrease a person’s sentence. It also does not give a judge leeway to impose a lighter sentence. For instance, a person convicted of a possessing more than five grams of crack cocaine will receive a minimum of five years in prison.

Mandatory minimum sentences are outlined according to:

  • Possession
  • Trafficking

Do States Have Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Drug Crimes?

Yes, some states do have mandatory minimum drug crime sentences. They are based on the drug’s weight, type of drug, and any prior convictions. States have also deviated from mandatory minimum sentences by offering allowing judges to focus on rehabilitating the defendant than imposing a prison or jail sentence.

For instance, many states have drug courts and drug programs. These programs are typically for first time offenders. In exchange for avoiding a prison sentence, the defendant receives more than a year in drug treatment.

Should I Contact an Attorney about Drug Crime Sentencing?

If you are being investigated for or charged with a drug crime, you need to speak to a criminal defense attorney. Depending on the drug charges and applicable laws, you may be able to avoid harsh drug crime sentences.

Photo of page author Taelonnda Sewell

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 07-01-2018 11:13 PM PDT

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