Drug Sentencing and Sentencing Guidelines

Punishment for a drug offense is determined by either the statute or the applicable sentencing guidelines. If the statute applies a minimum mandatory jail sentence, the court cannot impose a sentence less than the minimum, unless there are exceptions to go below the minimum. If the sentencing guidelines apply, the guidelines will determine how sentence. The guidelines might dictate that the sentence be higher than the mandatory minimum depending upon the quantity.

Sentencing guidelines were created to solve the problem of sentence disparities. Persons charged with similar offenses, similar facts, and similar criminal histories would receive very similar sentences. A defendants before different judges could receive similar sentences in order to cure the sentencing of the luck of the draw. The mitigating factors that traditionally influenced judges such as a defendant’s age or whether the defendant has children or dependants would no longer be factored into the sentence. A defendant with a bad record could not be givens a break under the sentencing guidelines and would receive the same range as another defendant with a similar criminal history.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug offense, contact Miami attorney Ken Swartz to schedule an initial consultation.

Drug Weight Important

In the area of drug crimes, the sentencing guidelines are primarily driven by the weight or quantity of the controlled substance. For instance, the sentence for a person charged with 5 kilograms of cocaine or 1,000 kilograms of marijuana would be the same. Each type of drug has a sentencing guidelines calculation.

They are influenced by facts of the case

While weight is the most important factor, other facts in the case will influence the sentencing guidelines such as whether a firearm was used, whether there was an injury, or whether there was specific harm. These factually based factors will generally push the guidelines upward.

Other factors universal factors will affect the outcome of the sentencing guidelines

The defendant’s role is important. If the accused was considered a leader, manager or a recruiter, an enhancement may apply. On the other hand if the person played a minor and had less culpability compared to codefendants in the same offense, a lower sentencing guidelines range could be appropriate.

If there was obstruction of justice in the case, the guidelines could be increased. The basis for obstruction could be testifying falsely on the witness stand or somehow interfering with the investigation.

Criminal history

A person’s criminal history plays an important role in determining the guidelines sentence. Points are given for each type of sentence, depending upon the length. A person with multiple convictions becomes a career offender and will be sentenced near the upper range of the guidelines.

Guidelines are advisory

At one time sentencing guidelines were mandatory until the U.S. Supreme Court decided in U.S. v. Booker that they were unconstitutional and could only be advisory. The Supreme Court ruled that federal court had to consider the sentencing guidelines as a starting point, but ultimately must look to other factors dictated by the federal sentencing statute to reach a reasonable sentence. Today the guidelines are no longer binding, but rather only advisory. If the sentencing court decides that a reasonable sentence is the guideline sentence, then this finding will support a guideline sentence.

Drug related offenses are serious charges that require the highest quality legal representation. Ken Swartz is a Miami criminal defense lawyer who is a Florida Board certified expert in criminal trial law in both state and federal courts. He has nearly 30 years of experience representing hundreds of cases involving persons charged with drug trafficking offenses. If you or someone you know is accused of a drug-related charge facing incarceration and the loss of personal assets, whether in federal or state court, call Swartz Law Firm to schedule a consultation with an experienced, board certified criminal trial attorney.

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