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Federal Drug Penalties

Drug charges should be taken seriously, no matter the case. Often times, a conviction can lead to jail time, fines or both. However, federal drug charges often are more severe than those at the state level. Federal law provides for various penalties and punishments for convictions for drug charges.

The penalties are based on several different factors, including the Schedules in which the drug involved in the alleged crime is listed. Different penalties apply for narcotics listed in Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV and Schedule V of the Controlled Substances Act and the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act.

San Antonio Federal Drug Offense Attorney

If you are charged with any drug crime in federal court, it is important you have an attorney who is experienced in dealing with federal charges. Federal prosecutors are aggressive, and you need legal counsel who can push back and help you fight to protect your future.

Contact an experienced San Antonio federal drug offense lawyer at Goldstein, Goldstein, Hilley & Orr. Our offices are located in San Antonio, Texas. Our attorneys represent clients on a variety of serious drug crimes in federal court, including the United States District Court, Western Division of Texas. Call 210-226-1463 to schedule a free consultation.


Information About Federal Drug Crimes


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What are Considered Federal Drug Offenses?

The Drug Enforcement Agency is a federal law enforcement agency that specializes in felony drug crimes. The DEA often targets large-scale drug-related crimes, such as drug smuggling domestically in the United States and abroad in other countries. However, several different drug offenses could be considered federal.

Examples of federal drug charges under 21 U.S.C. 844 that could fall under the DEA’s jurisdiction include:

  • Drug trafficking
  • Drug manufacturing
  • Possession of a controlled substance
  • Drug conspiracy

Generally, a drug crime can be charged as a federal offense when it occurred on federal property or when the alleged crime involves an undercover federal agent. Additionally, if drugs were sold to people under age 21 or in a school zone, it could be a federal offense.

One of the most common ways a crime can be charged as a federal drug offense is drug trafficking or distribution. Often times this involves traveling over state lines and distributing large amounts of narcotics. In these cases, the federal government likely will intervene.


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Federal Drug Conspiracy

In many federal drug cases, prosecutors will allege the accused participated in a federal drug conspiracy. A conspiracy in this case is an agreement between two or more people to commit some sort of drug-related crime. A person can be charged with this even if the crime was not committed.

Being charged with a drug conspiracy is one of the most common ways alleged drug offenders are charged with a federal crime. Often times people who face these charges did not participate in the crime. If the person merely discussed the crime with another, he or she could face drug conspiracy charges.

In a drug conspiracy case, the prosecution must prove:

  • There was an agreement to violate or break a drug law
  • Each person charged with conspiracy knew about the proposed agreement
  • At least one act was taken to further the conspiracy

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Sentencing in Federal Drug Cases

Some federal crimes have mandatory minimum sentences, which often carry harsh penalties. These often give the judge limited discretion when determining the length of a sentence or other punishments. These policies were designed to crack down on national drug use and possession, but it often provides unnecessary sentences for minor crimes.

There are other factors used to determine the severity of the punishment as well. For example, whether the offense harmed another person, whether there was a weapon involved and the criminal history of the accused all would be taken into account.


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Penalties for Federal Drug Trafficking

For these types of substances and quantities:

  • Heroin (Schedule I) for 100-999 grams mixture
  • LSD (Schedule I) for 1-9 grams mixture
  • Fentanyl Analogue (Schedule I) or 10-99 grams mixture
  • Cocaine (Schedule II) for 500-4999 grams mixture
  • Cocaine Base (Schedule II) for 28-279 grams mixture
  • PCP (Schedule II) for 10-99 grams pure or 100-999 grams mixture
  • Methamphetamine (Schedule II) for 5-49 grams pure or 50-499 grams mixture
  • Fentanyl (Schedule IV) for 40-399 grams mixture

These penalties apply:

  • First Offense: Not less than five years and not more than 40 years in prison. If death or serious bodily injury, then not less than 20 years or more than life. Fine of not more than $5 million if an individual or $25 million if not an individual.
  • Second Offense: Not less than 10 years and not more than life. If death or serious bodily injury then life imprisonment.  Fine of not more than $8 million if an individual or $50 million if not an individual.

For these types of substances and quantities:

  • Fentanyl Analogue (Schedule I) for 100 grams or more mixture
  • Heroin (Schedule I) for 1 kilogram or more mixture
  • LCD (Schedule I) for 10 grams or more mixture
  • Methamphetamine (Schedule II) for 50 grams or more pure or 500 grams or more mixture
  • Cocaine (Schedule II) for 5 kilograms or more mixture
  • Cocaine Base (Schedule II) for 280 grams or more mixture
  • PCP (Schedule II) for 100 grams or more pure or 1 kilogram or more mixture
  • Fentanyl (Schedule IV) for 400 grams or more mixture

These penalties apply:

  • First Offense: Not less than 10 years and not more than life. If death or serious bodily injury, then not less than 20 years or more than life.  Fine of not more than $10 million if an individual or $50 million if not an individual.
  • Second Offense: Not less than 20 years and not more than life. If death or serious bodily injury then life imprisonment. Fine of not more than $20 million if an individual or $75 million if not an individual.
  • 2 or More Prior Offenses: Life imprisonment. Fine of not more than $20 million if an individual or $75 million if not an individual.

For these types of substances and quantities:

  • Any amount of another type of Schedule I or Schedule II substances
  • Any drug product containing Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid
  • Flunitrazepam (Schedule IV) for 1 Gram

These penalties apply:

  • First Offense: Not more that 20 years. If death or serious bodily injury, then not less than 20 years or more than Life. Fine of $1 million if an individual or $5 million if not an individual.
  • Second Offense: Not more than 30 years. If death or serious bodily injury, then life imprisonment. Fine of $2 million if an individual or $10 million if not an individual.

For other Schedule III drugs the following penalties apply:

  • First Offense: Not more than 10 years. If death or serious bodily injury, then not more that 15 years. Fine of not more than $500,000 if an individual or $2.5 million if not an individual.
  • Second Offense: Not more than 20 years. If death or serious injury, then not more than 30 years. Fine of not more than $1 million if an individual or $5 million if not an individual.

For Schedule IV drugs (other than one gram or more of Flunitrazepam) the following penalties apply:

  • First Offense: Not more than five years. Fine not more than $250,000 if an individual or $1 million if not an individual.
  • Second Offense: Not more than 10 years. Fine not more than $500,000 if an individual or $2 million if other than an individual.

For Schedule V drugs the following penalties apply:

  • First Offense: Not more than one year. Fine not more than $100,000 if an individual or $250,000 if not an individual.
  • Second Offense: Not more than four years. Fine not more than $200,000 if an individual or $500,000 if not an individual.

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Additional Resources

Drug Enforcement Administration - This link is the United States Controlled Substance Act. This act classifies controlled substances according to schedules and explains the corresponding penalties for drug-related crimes.

Drug Fact Sheet - This link explains facts about some commonly used narcotics and other controlled substances. This link from the Drug Enforcement Administration explains how narcotics can affect a person's body and brain.

Federal Drug Scheduling - Drugs, substances and certain chemicals used to make drugs are classified into five distinct categories under federal law. This link breaks down the federal drug scheduling and gives examples of some of the narcotics in each one.


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Finding the Best Federal Drug Crime Lawyer in Bexar County

The criminal defense attorneys at Goldstein, Goldstein, Hilley & Orr represent clients on a variety of serious federal drug crimes, including trafficking in controlled substances. Our offices are in San Antonio, Texas, and We represent clients throughout the United States. Call our officeat 210-226-1463 to discuss the penalties that apply to those particular charges and the best defenses.