If you are facing federal crime charges, you need to understand mandatory minimums and how they might affect you. In this post, we’ll describe what mandatory minimums are and which federal charges come with them.
Mandatory Minimum Prison Sentences
The federal government issues mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain high level crimes. This means that those who are charged with these offenses will not be able to negotiate for reduced sentencing that is below the designated minimum.
This is quite different from most state crimes, it is often possible to avoid a prison sentence completely in exchange for some other type of consequence, depending on the crime and the deal struck.
There are six federal crimes (or crime groups) that carry mandatory minimum sentencing, as described below.
Federal Crimes with Mandatory Minimums
Federal law issues tough punishments for individuals convicted of distributing, dispensing, or manufacturing controlled substances or who possess with an intent to manufacture, dispense, or distribute an illicit substance.
Depending on the type and amount of drug in question, an individual can face federal charges even if he or she possessed the drugs for personal use. Here are examples of felony drug trafficking crimes subject to a mandatory minimum sentencing:
- One or more kilo of cocaine
- Ten or more grams of LSD
- Fifty grams of methamphetamine
- One thousand kilos of marijuana
Convictions for these crimes will carry a sentence of 10 years to life, which can be raised to a sentence of 20 years to life if serious bodily injury or death occurred with the crime.
Drug imports and exports
Anyone who imports or exports the controlled substances listed on the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act can be subject to mandatory minimums of five, 10, or 20 years up to life in prison.
If a violent or drug-related crime involves the use of a firearm, mandatory minimum sentencing usually goes into effect. A first-time offender can expect to have 5-10 years of mandatory minimums, and a second-time offender may have a mandatory minimum of 25 years.
When the defendant uses a machine gun, destructive device, or firearm silencer, the mandatory minimum for a first-time offender is 30 years and life for a second-time offender.
The use of armor piercing ammunition in a drug trafficking crime or crime of violence will result in a 15-year mandatory minimum.
Federal law prohibits accepting or harboring illegal aliens who you reasonably believe will commit a felony, or who will be used for private or commercial financial gain. The mandatory minimum for these crimes is three to five years in prison.
If someone who was previously deported to protect national security reenters the country, a conviction will result in a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.
If you are convicted for aggravated identity theft, you can face two to five years of mandatory minimum sentencing.
Many sex crimes, particularly those that involve children or child pornography, are subject to mandatory minimum sentencing. Depending on the victim’s age, the defendant’s status, and whether coercion, fraud, or force was used, the mandatory minimum sentencing can be five, 10, 30 years, or life in prison.
As you can see, mandatory minimums are a huge deal. If you are facing a federal charge with a mandatory minimum sentence, it becomes even more important that you fight back with everything you’ve got.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.