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Practices > Drug Offenses > Federal Drug Penalties

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Federal sentencing guidelines describe forty-three (43) base offense levels for drug charges. The higher the level of offense, the harsher the sentence will be. The base offense level under the federal guidelines varies. As previously mentioned, it hinges directly on the type of drugs and the amount of drugs found. For example, crack is a form of cocaine and is listed on the same schedule of controlled substances. However, the quantity of crack needed to impose certain sentences is much less than the quantity of powdered cocaine. Crack cocaine is considered to be a more serious drug than straight powder cocaine. Thus, a person convicted of delivering 5 grams of crack will face a sentence in the federal system of five to forty years. With a straight cocaine charge, to be facing the same potential sentencing range, a person would have to be convicted of delivering 500 grams of powdered cocaine. The federal sentencing guidelines allow for a maximum of one year in prison for a first-time offender, a maximum of two years in prison for a second-time offender, and a maximum of three years in prison for a third-time offender (or higher). Please note the exception for crack cocaine - the sentence for possession of more than five grams of crack cocaine is increased to a minimum of five years in prison, even for those who are first-time offenders. It is important for an accused person to be represented by a lawyer who has experience and knowledge in the federal arena. At WILL & WILL, LLP, our lawyers can guide you through the process. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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