While some drug crimes fall under state jurisdiction, other offenses result in federal prosecution. The most common federal drug crime is trafficking, which includes importing, transporting and selling controlled substances.
Penalties for federal drug trafficking charges vary based on the type of substance and the amount.
Initial drug trafficking convictions
The most serious federal trafficking cases involve Schedule I and II drugs such as cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, LSD, PCP and methamphetamine. When the defendant has no previous federal drug trafficking charges, he or she could receive the following base penalties:
- A mandatory minimum of five years and up to 40 years in prison
- At least 20 years and up to life in prison if serious injury or death results from drug trafficking
- A fine of up to $5 million
When the amount of the substance exceeds the federal base penalty amount, the mandatory minimum prison sentence increases to 10 years with a maximum life sentence. The maximum fine increases to $10 million.
Subsequent drug trafficking convictions
Individuals who have a previous conviction for drug trafficking can receive the following penalties for a second or subsequent conviction:
- A mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison
- Life in prison if serious injury or death occurred
- A fine of up to $8 million
A third-time federal drug trafficking conviction will result in an automatic life sentence and a fine of up to $20 million. Shorter prison sentences and lower fines may apply for the trafficking of Schedule III, IV and V controlled substances.