Federal Crimes Blog

How Can You Avoid a Long Sentence in a Federal Drug Case?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | May 18, 2023

More and more prosecutors are coming to life on these federal drug cases, especially now that the pandemic has lifted. Federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security, and the Drug Enforcement Agency, are targeting those individuals moving drugs, whether methamphetamine, fentanyl, or cocaine. 

If you get charged with enough drugs, then you're facing a double-digit federal sentence, meaning:

  • Many of these charges carry at least the 10-year mandatory minimum;
  • If you're using a gun, an additional five years under federal law,
  • Depending on your criminal history, you could be designated a career offender and face a 20+ year sentence.

It's incredible where you fall on the federal sentencing guidelines when you have enough methamphetamine; for example, it can be almost the top of the level – a level 38, a level 40 – and this is a horrible sentence to be facing.  So, it's tough to avoid that double-digit sentence.

They usually go after people they can easily convict on these significant drug cases.  Sometimes they throw out a broad net and catch people who are not guilty of what they're being charged with.

What is the Safety Valve?

A way to avoid a double-digit sentence, potentially, because ultimately, it's going to be up to a judge, but you can certainly put yourself in a good position, is to be able to argue that the safety valve applies to you and that's five criteria that you have to meet.  Usually, the following would apply:

  • You're not going to have much of a criminal record;
  • You're not going to be a leader or organizer;
  • You're not going to have a weapon to guard your drugs;
  • You will have to sit down and proffer with the government.

At least tell them what you were involved with and give a truthful account of that.  These are some of the things that you have to do if you want to try to get that safety valve.  That would allow the court to consider giving you a sentence under the 10-year mandatory minimum. 

They don't have to give you the safety valve; even if they give it to you, they don't necessarily have to give you a sentence under ten years. It's going to depend on your criminal history.  It will depend on where you fall in the guideline ranges based on what you plead guilty to and your prior criminal record.

Substantial Cooperation with the Government

Another way to get under the double-digit sentence is to cooperate with the government.  Sometimes people can do that; sometimes, they're not. If you don't have any information to give the government, cooperating often wastes time.

Substantial Cooperation with the Government

If, on the other hand, you do have good information and you decide that's the road you want to take, you have to realize that the government will have to decide that whatever information you give them has given them substantial assistance in catching another person.

This means getting more drugs, getting guns, whatever the case may be. So they're going to do that evaluation.  They'll have to send it to the higher-ups and decide whether they will give you credit for the information you provided. Your attorney will champion that argument for you to try to get you under the 10-year threshold many people face.

Those are how to get around that double-digit sentence regarding a federal drug case. I've been doing this now for 30 years. So if you need the best, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. We offer a free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, CA.

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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Hedding Law Firm is committed to answering your questions about Federal Criminal Defense issues in Los Angeles and Encino California. We'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.