Federal Drug Crime Defense
The Henry Law Firm PLLC is committed to innovatively representing its clients facing federal charges or investigations for drug offenses in New York and across the country. Persons accused by the government of drug violations face substantial minimum mandatory prison time, a period of supervised release, and huge fines.
The federal government expends significant resources prosecuting and incarcerating people for drug crimes. They rely on sophisticated investigation techniques, broad subpoena power and old fashioned cooperating witness testimony to arrest and imprison individuals at a staggering rate. Since the 1980’s, the prison population has boomed because of drug crime prosecutions. That is why it is absolutely necessary to get an attorney who has significant experience handling federal drug crimes. A seasoned federal drug attorney can help you avoid months or years of your life in federal prison.
The Henry Law Firm PLLC has extensive experience representing clients in federal drug investigations and prosecutions. We have defended individuals in cases involving cocaine, heroin, cocaine base (“crack”), methamphetamine, anabolic steroids, Oxycodone, marijuana and many other types of narcotic drugs. We have saved our clients significant amounts of time in jail and achieved dismissals, probation or reduced sentences in drug cases around the country. We have a successful track record in federal drug trials involving drug conspiracies, substantive drug crimes, importing narcotics and attempt cases.
Drug crimes in federal court fall into many categories. Title 21 of the United States Code lays out multiple ways someone may be charged with and convicted of a drug crime.
21 USC 841
Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a) lays out the general prohibition against manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance. It also prohibits possessing a controlled substance with the intend to manufacture, distribute or dispense. In addition to actual controlled substances, it is a violation of the law to create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to distribute or dispense a counterfeit substance.
Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(b) describes the penalties for a violation of subsection (a). 21 USC 841(b)(1) breaks down the most common areas of punishment for federal drug crimes.
21 USC 841(b)(1)(A) states that the penalty is no less than 10 years and up to life in prison if the offense involves:
- 1 kilogram or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of heroin;
- 5 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing coca leaves, cocaine, ecgonine or any compound, mixture or preparation containing those substances;
- 280 grams or more of a mixture or substance which contains cocaine base;
- 100 grams or more of phencyclidine (PCP) or 1 kilogram or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of phencyclidine (PCP);
- 10 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD);
- 400 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing N-phenyl-N- [ 1- ( 2-phenylethyl ) -4-piperidinyl ] propanamide or 100 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing any analogue of N-phenyl-N-[1-(2-phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl] propanamide;
- 1000 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing marihuana, or 1,000 or more marihuana plants regardless of weight; or
- 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, and salts of its isomers or 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, or salts of its isomers.
The maximum prison sentence for a conviction under 841(b)(1)(A) is a life sentence. The court must also impose a five-year period of supervised release in addition to the mandatory prison term and a $10,000,000 fine. The weight of the substance includes any mixture of the drug with other substances. A person faces a 20-year minimum mandatory prison sentence if a person was killed or severely injured from the use of such prohibited substances. A person who had committed one previous offense faces a 20 to life prison term. A third offense is a mandatory life sentence.
21 USC 841(b)(1)(B) states that the penalty is no less than five years up to 40 years in prison for offenses involving:
- 100 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of heroin;
- 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing coca leaves, cocaine, ecgonine or any compound, mixture or preparation containing those substances;
- 28 grams or more of a mixture or substance which contains cocaine base;
- 10 grams or more of phencyclidine (PCP) or 1 kilogram or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of phencyclidine (PCP);
- 1 gram or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD);
- 40 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing N-phenyl-N- [ 1- ( 2-phenylethyl ) -4-piperidinyl ] propanamide or 10 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing any analogue of N-phenyl-N-[1-(2-phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl] propanamide;
- 100 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing marihuana, or 1,000 or more marihuana plants regardless of weight; or
- 5 grams or more of methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, and salts of its isomers or 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, or salts of its isomers.
If a person is killed or severely injured from the use of these prohibited substances, then the court must impose a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence, with a maximum term of life imprisonment. The court may also impose a $10,000,000 fine and four years of supervised release. A prior offense for one of these crimes will result in a 10-year mandatory prison sentence accompanied by eight years of supervised release.
21 USC 841(b)(1)(C) states that the penalty is up to 20 years in prison for offenses involving:
- Schedule I drugs not included in subsection (b)(1)(A) or (b)(1)(B);
- Schedule II drugs not contained in subsection(b)(1)(A) or (b)(1)(B);
- gamma hydroxybuttyric acid; or
- 1 gram of flunitrazepam.
If a person is killed or severely injured from the use of these substances, then the maximum sentence is life, with a minimum of twenty years. The court may impose a $2,000,000 fine and supervised release for three years. A prior offense results in a maximum incarceration of thirty years, accompanied by six years of supervised release.
21 USC 841(b)(1)(D) states the penalty is up to 5 years in prison for an offense involving:
- Less than 50 kilograms of marihuana, except in the case of 50 or more marihuana plants regardless of weight;
- Less than 10 kilograms of hashish; or
- Less than 1 kilogram of hashish oil.
21 USC 846
The United States Attorney’s Office often charges a violation of 21 USC 846 in connection with 21 USC 841 or standing alone. Commonly referred to as conspiracy, Section 846 is one of the most heavily used federal criminal statutes used to prosecute federal drug crimes.
Mere Presence: The law provides that an individual who is merely present at the scene of an illegal drug transaction has not violated the law. The 2nd Circuit has said:
Traditionally, law has required more than “mere presence” or mere knowledge to sustain a conviction for conspiracy. See, e.g., United States v. Edwardo–Franco, 885 F.2d 1002, 1010–11 (2d Cir.1989) (holding that defendant who lived for twelve days in a single room of a house found to contain drugs in basement could not be convicted of conspiracy to possess for mere presence in house); United States v. Nusraty, 867 F.2d 759, 764–65 (2d Cir.1989) (holding that mere presence at airport when acquaintance arrived carrying drugs could not justify conspiracy conviction); United States v. Soto, 716 F.2d 989, 991 (2d Cir.1983) (holding that defendant’s presence in apartment in which drugs were found did not sufficiently support conviction). Rather, it is necessary for the government to introduce some evidence of participation in the conspiracy in order to sustain a conviction. See id.United States v. Locascio, 6 F.3d 924, 944 (2d Cir. 1993)
Buyer-Seller Agreement: Federal drug laws do not extend to an individual who is merely a buyer or seller of narcotics. There are many exceptions to this rule, but if you were simply buying or selling drugs without more you cannot be guilty of a crime. The Second Circuit describes this rule as follows:
A conspiracy conviction requires proof “that two or more persons agreed to participate in a joint venture intended to commit an unlawful act.” Desimone, 119 F.3d at 223. “A transfer of drugs from a seller to a buyer necessarily involves agreement, however brief, on the distribution of a controlled substance from the former to the latter.” Wexler, 522 F.3d at 210 (Raggi, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). However, while the illegal sale of narcotics is a substantive crime requiring an agreement by two or more persons, “ ‘the sale agreement itself cannot be the conspiracy [to distribute], for it has no separate criminal object.’ ” Wexler, 522 F.3d at 208 (alteration in original) (quoting United States v. Thomas, 284 F.3d 746, 751-52 (7th Cir.2002)). “Without more, the mere buyer–seller relationship … is insufficient to establish a conspiracy.” United States v. Gore, 154 F.3d 34, 40 (2d Cir.1998); see also Wexler, 522 F.3d at 210 (Raggi, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (“Absent more, … the law does not consider this momentary meeting of the minds sufficient to support a conviction for conspiring to distribute drugs.”); United States v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp., 871 F.2d 1181, 1191 (2d Cir.) (“[A] mere buyer–seller relationship is not necessarily *72 a conspiracy ….”), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 933, 110 S.Ct. 324, 107 L.Ed.2d 314 (1989); United States v. Borelli, 336 F.2d 376, 384 (2d Cir.1964) (“[A] sale or a purchase scarcely constitutes a sufficient basis for inferring agreement to cooperate with the opposite parties for whatever period they continue to deal in this type of contraband, unless some such understanding is evidenced by other conduct which accompanies or supplements the transaction.”), cert. denied, 379 U.S. 960, 85 S.Ct. 647, 13 L.Ed.2d 555 (1965); United States v. Koch, 113 F.2d 982, 983 (2d Cir.1940) (“The purchase of the cocaine from [a conspirator] was not enough to prove a conspiracy in which [the seller] and the appellant participated. They had no agreement to advance any joint interest.”).
“The rationale for holding a buyer and a seller not to be conspirators is that in the typical buy-sell scenario, which involves a casual sale of small quantities of drugs, there is no evidence that the parties were aware of, or agreed to participate in, a larger conspiracy.” United States v. Medina, 944 F.2d 60, 65 (2d Cir.1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 949, 112 S.Ct. 1508, 117 L.Ed.2d 646 (1992). However, “[t]his rationale does not apply … where, [for example,] there is advanced planning among the alleged co-conspirators to deal in wholesale quantities of drugs obviously not intended for personal use. Under such circumstances, the participants in the transaction may be presumed to know that they are part of a broader conspiracy.” Id. at 65-66.
It is clear, then, that the existence of a buyer–seller relationship does not itself establish a conspiracy; however, where there is additional evidence showing an agreement to join together to accomplish an objective beyond the sale transaction, the evidence may support a finding that the parties intentionally participated in a conspiracy. See Wexler, 522 F.3d at 208 (noting, in the course of reversing conviction for narcotics-distribution conspiracy, the absence of proof of an agreement to distribute); Gore, 154 F.3d at 41(holding that “it would be sheer speculation for jurors to conclude that an agreement to distribute drugs had been made” where there was no evidence “of the exact nature of [the sale] transaction or the quantity of drugs involved”); Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp., 871 F.2d at 1191(“[A] defendant may be deemed to have agreed to join a conspiracy if there is something more, some indication that the defendant knew of and intended to further the illegal venture, that he somehow encouraged the illegal use of the goods or had a stake in such use.” (internal quotation marks omitted)); Borelli, 336 F.2d at 384 (“Purchase or sale of contraband may, of course, warrant the inference of an agreement going well beyond the particular transaction. A seller of narcotics in bulk surely knows that the purchasers will undertake to resell the goods over an uncertain period of time, and the circumstances may also warrant the inference that a supplier or a purchaser indicated a willingness to repeat.”); Koch, 113 F.2d at 983(“It was necessary to the government’s case to show that the appellant was in some way knowingly associated in the unlawful common enterprise to import the drugs and dispose of them unlawfully.”).
Thus, where the evidence has supported the inference that a defendant agreed to participate in the conspiracy beyond simply buying or selling we have upheld the conviction.United States v. Hawkins, 547 F.3d 66, 71-72 (2d Cir. 2008)
Young Adult Opportunity Program
The Southern District of New York recently implemented a Young Adult Opportunity Program for individuals who have been charged with drug or other non-violent offenses. The program is intended to allow selected individuals who are under 25 years old and meet other qualifications to undergo a probationary period of drug treatment and/or other supervision in hopes of a reduction in charges, a lower sentence, and potentially a dismissal of the case. Additional information is also available here.
Other districts around the country are also implementing drug courts or other diversion programs for low-level drug offenders and non-violent individuals. Be sure to discuss this with an attorney immediately.
How Can We Help
The consequences of a federal drug conviction are to serious to leave to just anyone. The Henry Law Firm, PLLC is dedicated to vigorously defending its clients facing enormous minimum mandatory prison sentences. We have represented countless people facing charges for cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, crack, marijuana and other illegal drugs. We are one of the few firms in New York City to have placed an individual in the Young Adult Opportunity Program. We have tried federal drugs cases in multiple districts around the country. Our experience fighting these charges inside and outside the courtroom is second to none. Call the Henry Law Firm, PLLC at 646-820-0224 to learn how our innovation and experience can help you.
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