While many criminal offenses are prosecuted by the state, certain crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. For instance, if a crime was committed on federal property or across state lines, it may be considered a federal offense. Whether an offense is filed in state or federal court can have serious consequences, as federal penalties are often much more severe, which makes it especially important for those who have been charged with a federal drug crime, to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help defend their interests.
In federal drug cases, the judge’s discretion is often limited in regards to deciding the length of a person’s prison sentence. This is because many federal drug offenses require judges to comply with specific and very strict sentencing guidelines. Although these laws were originally designed to target serious drug manufacturers and traffickers, the guidelines have actually resulted in increasingly long prison terms for those who commit minor offenses.
Federal sentencing guidelines are generally much more severe than state guidelines. For instance, in Pennsylvania, drug trafficking involving marijuana is punishable by:
- One to three years in prison and a fine of between $5,000 and $25,000 if the charge involved more than 30 grams, but less than two pounds of marijuana;
- A mandatory one year prison sentence and a fine of $10,000 if the offense involved more than two pounds, but less than ten pounds of marijuana;
- A mandatory three year prison term and a $15,000 fine if the offense involved at least ten pounds, but less than 50 pounds of marijuana; or
- A mandatory five year prison sentence and a $50,000 fine if the charged involved 50 pounds or more of marijuana.
The federal sentencing guidelines for the same offenses are much harsher and are punishable by:
- Up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for a first offense involving less than 50 kilos of marijuana;
- Up to ten years in prison and a $500,000 fine for a second offense involving less than 50 kilos of marijuana;
- Up to 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine for a first offense if the charge involved between 50 and 99 kilos of marijuana;
- A minimum five year sentence, a maximum 40 year sentence, and a fine of up to $5,000,000 for a charge involving between 100 and 999 kilos of marijuana;
- A minimum sentence of ten years and a maximum sentence of life in prison for a first offense involving 1,000 kilos or more of marijuana; and
- A minimum sentence of 20 years for a second offense involving 1,000 kilos or more of marijuana.
Contact us Today to Speak With an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
Federal sentencing guidelines are much harsher than their state counterparts, which means that even minor offenses can result in hefty fines and extended prison sentences. If you live in Pennsylvania and were charged with a federal drug crime, please contact us at van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin by calling (215) 486-0123 today.