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A Guide to Mandatory Minimums for Drug Trafficking
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A Guide to Mandatory Minimums for Drug Trafficking

 

When we talk about the sentencing guidelines for criminal offenses in Colorado, they’re just that – guidelines. Aggravating and mitigating factors, as well as the amount of charges and a judge’s own discretion, all work together as factors that make up the final sentence.

 

At the federal level, these rules are a little different. One of the biggest policies that affects sentencing at the federal level is mandatory minimums.

 

Mandatory minimums are the legal minimum jail sentence given to certain crimes. Since the start of our country, mandatory minimums have been in place for serious crimes like murder or treason. They’ve gone through some changes over the years, but no change has affected our criminal justice system more than the additions made in 1986.

 

By 1986, America was already 15 years deep into the War on Drugs, throwing more people in jail in a short period of time than the world had ever seen. Creating mandatory minimums for drug crimes was another strategy by the federal government to “crack down” on drugs.

 

While mandatory minimums were put in place later for crimes against children, weapons charges, and weapons crimes, drug crimes (specifically drug trafficking) have made the largest impact on the amount of individuals we see in our federal prisons today.

 

When Is Drug Trafficking a Federal Issue?

 

When Is Drug Trafficking a Federal Issue

Crimes become a federal issue when the crime involves a national organization (a common example is the United States Postal Service) or takes place across state lines.

 

The nature of drug trafficking means that it almost always crosses state or national lines, but not all drug trafficking charges are handled at the federal level. Why? Because the severity of a drug trafficking charge first and foremost depends on the amount of drugs that are being transported.

 

A federal court can take on any crime that they have interest in. The more drugs involved, the more interest the feds will have in the crime.

 

List of Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Drug Trafficking

 

As we mentioned earlier, the severity of the crime (and the mandatory prison sentence) is determined by the amount of drugs involved. Aggravating factors, as well as the number of previous offenses, also have a big impact on the mandatory sentencing.

 

Let’s start from the top down.

 

The amount of drugs that need to be involved to qualify for the most severe level of mandatory minimums include 1 kg of heroin, 5 kg of cocaine, 280 g of crack, 100 g of pure PCP, 1 kg of a PCP mixture, 10 g of LSD, 1,000 kg of marijuana, 1,000 marijuana plants, 50 g of pure meth or 500 g of a meth mixture:

 

  • 1st offense; manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute, with no death or serious bodily injury: 10 years in prison
  • 2nd offense; manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute, with no death or serious bodily injury results: 20 years in prison
  • 1st offense; manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute; where death or serious bodily injury results: 20 years in prison
  • 2nd offense; manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute; where death or serious bodily injury results: life in prison

 

A third offense, whether bodily harm was caused or not, puts you in prison for life.

 

Denver Drug Trafficking Lawyer

There are also mandatory minimums set for a smaller amount of drugs, which include 100 g of heroin, 500 g of cocaine, 28 g of crack, 10 g of pure PCP, 100 g of a PCP mixture, 1 g of LSD, 100 kg of marijuana, 100 marijuana plants, 5 g of pure meth, or 50 g of a meth mixture:

 

  • 1st offense; manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute, with no death or serious bodily injury: 5 years in prison
  • 2nd and all subsequent offenses; manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute, where no death or serious bodily injury results: 10 years in prison
  • 1st offense; manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute; where death or serious bodily injury results: 20 years in prison
  • 2nd and all subsequent offenses; manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute; where death or serious bodily injury results: life in prison

 

Other mandatory minimums include:

 

  • Manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute any Schedule I or II drug, 1 g flunitrazepam, GHB, or synthetic drugs, and death or serious bodily injury results from the use; 1st offense: 20 years
  • Manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute any Schedule I or II drug, 1 g flunitrazepam, GHB, or synthetic drugs, and death or serious bodily injury results from the use; 2nd offense: life in prison
  • Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE); 1st offense: 20 years
  • Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE); 2nd offense: 30 years
  • Acting as a “Kingpin” of a CCE: life in prison
  • Distribution of a controlled substance near a school or similar facility; 1st offense: 1 year
  • Distribution of a controlled substance near a school or similar facility; 2nd offense, 3 years

 

For more information on mandatory sentencing and how to fight drug trafficking charges, contact a knowledgeable Denver drug crimes lawyer.

 

About the Author:

Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2016 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state.  She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.