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Federal Narcotics

About Federal Narcotics Charges

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The primary federal law in the narcotics context originates from 21 U.S.C 841. Most people who are accused of violating the drug laws of the United States are accused under this section of the United States Code along with 21 U.S.C 846. This is assuming that it is the federal government who is accusing the person or group. If New York State is accusing the person or group, then that accusation comes from the New York Penal Code.

21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1) sets the penalty range for possession of controlled substances with the intent to distribute them. This has three subsections. Subsections A is the most serious. Subsection B is intermediate. Subsection C is the least serious. How much jail time a person ultimately is forced to serve depends on how much of a particular drug they have, what the drug is, and what their criminal record is. The weight of the drugs necessary to qualify for a particular subsection depends on the drug in question. For example, to be guilty of 841(b)(1)(A), a person needs to be in possession of over 1 kilogram of heroin. However, to be guilty of this same crime, a person needs to possess over 5 kilograms of powder cocaine. To fall under 841(b)(1)(B), a person needs to possess 100 grams of heroin or 500 grams of powder cocaine. 841(b)(1)(C) requires less than 100 grams of heroin or 500 grams of powder cocaine.

About Sentencing Federal Drug Crimes

The sentence the person ultimately receives depends on the person's criminal history. If the person has been convicted of a previous felony drug crime and now they are convicted of subsection A, then they can receive a sentence of anywhere from 20 years to life. If a person has no record, then they can receive a sentence of 10 years to life. For subsection B, a person can receive a sentence range of 5 to 40 years in prison if they were never convicted of a crime in the past. If they have been previously convicted of a drug felony, then they can get a sentence of 10 years to life. Subsection C has a sentence range from 0 to 20 years in prison if the person has never been convicted of a crime. If a person has previously been convicted of a felony drug crime, then the range is from 0 to 30 years in prison. If a person has two previous felony drug convictions, then they must receive a life sentence irrespective how the weight of the drugs he possesses.

Conspiracy Drug Crimes

An important point to remember when it comes to federal drug cases is that 21 U.S.C. 846 states that a person faces the same penalties if the government can prove that the person is involved in a conspiracy with the others who actually possess or distribute the drugs. Therefore, a person can go to jail even if they never touched a drug in their life. All the evidence has to show is that the person made an agreement to violate the narcotics laws of the United States with another person and someone else who is in that same conspiracy is arrested in possession of the drugs. If that person has over one kilogram of heroin, then everyone in the conspiracy can be found guilty under 41 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A) as long as the government can prove the existence of the conspiracy and the individual members' involvement in the conspiracy. At that point, everyone can go to jail for lengthy periods of time.


There are defenses both to federal conspiracy laws as well as federal narcotics laws. If you or a loved one find yourself in a situation where you are accused of violating the federal narcotics laws, contact an experienced drug crimes attorney in Manhattan today for a free consultation. Call us at (212) 577-9328.

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