Ask any Tampa Federal Criminal Lawyer how they feel about Federal drug sentencing and I have little doubt the response you receive would be a groan and a look of disgust. Federal drug sentencing, for whatever popular and illusory reason the Federal Sentencing Commission chooses to hang their hat on, has been and is outrageous. For every crime there must necessarily be some kind of punishment otherwise the system is useless and we can cue anarchy. However, when one with little criminal history and no real ties to a cartel or gang takes a shot to make five times his yearly wage for a noble albeit illegal reason and ultimately is sentenced to a 10 year minimum mandatory prison term, have we really achieved anything? Should a drug sentence really be higher than a crime of violence or a sex crime against a minor? It doesn’t pass the smell test but it happens all the time. Title 21 of the Federal Criminal code details minimum mandatory sentences and it has been a leverage point of Federal Prosecutors since its inception.
Not only can a defendant be charged with a violation of Title 21 that calls for a mandatory minimum prison sentence, in certain instances the defendant’s sentence potential or mandatory minimum be increased because of a criminal history to make a minimum mandatory completely exorbitant. If the US Attorney’s office pops your man with a nice little 851 enhancement you are now staring down the barrel of a potential of a 20 year minimum mandatory or mandatory life sentence depending on the number of prior drug felonies he has. If the defendant was facing a 5 year minimum mandatory he is now looking at 10 and if there is no minimum mandatory, his statutory maximum increases. You can run but you can’t hide from the 851… All for one prior drug felony. Granted this enhancement is not automatic but it is wholly discretionary for the Federal Prosecutor. Depending on which Prosecutor is driving the bus, you could be in for a bumpy ass ride. This enhancement isn’t even inclusive of a Career Offender enhancement, and animal that has been criticized as not being based on empirical data by the Supreme Court in Kimbrough v. US, 552 U.S. 85, 109-110 (2007). When one is saddled with both an 851 and career offender enhancement his Federal criminal lawyer will earn a few more gray hairs.
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