What are the Federal Mandatory Minimums for Drug Cases?

barbed wire around a prison

Mandatory minimums in federal sentences can often times be brutal. A person facing their first ever serious charge could be looking at a decade or more in prison. Below is a basic summary of some common drug mandatory minimums, this information was taken from the Untied States Sentencing Commission's Overview of Mandatory Minimum Penalties.

The term “mandatory minimum penalty” refers to a federal criminal statute requiring the imposition of a specified minimum term of imprisonment.20 Mandatory minimum penalties vary in length depending on the offense type and specified criteria, from two years for aggravated identity theft, to life in prison for certain drug trafficking offenses. 

The mandatory minimum penalty applies if the instant offense of conviction involves a specified element of which the offender is found guilty. In the case of drug offenses, these triggering characteristics include manufacturing, trafficking, importing or distributing a particular type of drug at quantities above a specified threshold. For example, a person convicted of trafficking 28 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing cocaine base (crack cocaine) is subject to a mandatory minimum penalty of not less than five years, whereas a person convicted of an offense involving 280 grams is subject to a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years.

Common Drug Mandatory Minimum Penalties

   5 Year Mandatory  10 Year Mandatory
Heroin  100 Grams or more  1 KG or more
Powder Cocaine  500 Grams or more  5 KG or more
Cocaine Base (crack)  28 Grams or more  280 Grams or more
Marijuana  100 KG or more  1000 KG or more
Methamphetamine (pure)  5 Grams or more  50 Grams or more
Methamphetamine (mixture)  50 Grams or more  500 Grams or more

 

Getting Out From Under a Mandatory Minimum 

Not all offenders convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty are sentenced to the minimum term of imprisonment specified in the statute of conviction. Under the current system, a sentencing court can impose a sentence below an otherwise applicable statutory mandatory minimum penalty if: (1) the prosecution files a motion based on the defendant’s “substantial assistance” to authorities in the investigation or prosecution of another person; or (2) in certain drug trafficking cases, the defendant qualifies for the statutory “safety valve”.

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