There are a lot of mandatory minimum crimes in federal law. You're mainly talking about the safety valve coming into play when you're charged with a drug offense with a mandatory minimum sentence. Let's say, for example; you have more than 50 grams of methamphetamine. That triggers a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence.
What that means is, everything aside, if you get convicted in a jury trial, or you plead guilty to the charge of possessing a lot of methamphetamines, for example, then the judge must give you a sentence of at least ten years. They could give you a higher sentence, but the minimum is ten years.
Nobody wants to get a 10-year sentence. So, how do you get below that 10-year sentence? One way to get below that is by way of the safety valve.
It has five different factors you must pass to be able to avail yourself of this particular mechanism. If you get the safety valve, your sentence is below the 10-year mandatory minimum in my example.
Sometimes it's a 5-year, a 15-year, a 20-year. The bottom line is that nobody wants to be hit with a high mandatory minimum sentence, so the safety valve can be used to go below that sentence.
Also, get the safety valve. You can have two levels taken off your sentencing, which is very helpful when you look at the sentencing guidelines, and two levels are minus-offed, whatever your final total offense level ends up being. Our federal criminal defense lawyers will examine this topic further below.
How to Get the Safety Valve?
You must have no criminal record to get the safety valve in a federal criminal case. So, they're going to look at your criminal record. They're going to see whether or not your criminal history is level one.
You pass this first test if you have no criminal history level. Suppose you do have some criminal history points. In that case, you'll need to sit down with a criminal defense attorney and let them know what those criminal history points are, and they'll help you decide whether or not you meet this first challenge related to the safety valve.
The next thing you should be concerned about if you're trying to get a safety valve in a federal criminal case is whether or not you were a leader or organizer in the crime.
Again, that's something you have to talk about with your attorney. Once they get all the discovery in the case and review it, speak to the prosecutor about it and then talk to you about it, they can determine whether you were a leader/organizer.
Another thing that can stop you from getting the safety valve is if you used a gun in the commission of the crime, or some death or severe violent behavior was involved. Because of these factors, you put yourself in a position where the safety valve would not apply to you.
Defending Drug Trafficking and Sales Cases in Federal Court
Our federal criminal lawyers have experience representing clients charged with drug trafficking and narcotics sales in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. We have also helped defendants minimize or eliminate penalties for federal drug charges.
The prosecution for federal drug offenses will depend on the quantity and type of narcotics involved. Still, all kinds of federal drug crime convictions will expose a defendant to massive fines and significant time in federal prison.
Federal drug trafficking cases are primarily dealt with by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Usually, they take months or even years to build a solid criminal case.
We might be able to prevent formal charges from being filed against you by negotiating with the federal prosecutor. Perhaps we can reach a deal or secure reduced penalties and alternative punishments.
Prosecuting 21 U.S.C. § 841 Federal Drug Manufacturing Cases
To be convicted of violating U.S.C. § 841 federal drug manufacturing laws, the prosecutor has to prove all the elements of the crime, beyond any reasonable doubt that you:
- manufactured, distributed, or dispensed a controlled substance, or
- possessed with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense drugs, or
- created, distributed, or dispensed a counterfeit substance; or possessed controlled substances with intent, and
- did any of the above acts knowingly or intentionally.
“Knowingly or intentionally” refers to your state of mind when you acted. In other words, you must have known you were manufacturing a controlled or counterfeit substance or had a specific intent.
A federal conviction for 21 U.S.C. § 841 manufacturing a controlled substance typically carries a minimum sentence of five years in federal prison.
If convicted of manufacturing excessive quantities of controlled substances, you face a sentencing enhancement of an additional ten years or life in federal prison, a fine of up to $10 million for an individual, or up to $50 million for a group or organization.
How Can You Avoid the Mandatory Minimum Sentence?
What I have you do is to come into my office. We'll go over everything, and if you face a mandatory minimum sentence in a drug case, we'll talk about ways to get below the minimum sentence.
Of course, one way would be to get a not-guilty verdict in a jury trial, but if you can't get that, the safety valve can be a fundamental mechanism that can be used to help you in your federal criminal case.
Another factor is that you have to meet with the government and at least give them information about yourself, your crime, or what you did. You have to come clean.
They call that a safety valve proffer, where you sit down with the government, they ask you questions, and you answer the questions honestly. Suppose the government is satisfied that you were truthful to them and gave accurate information about your involvement in the subject crime? In that case, the government can indicate that you met your responsibility related to the safety valve.
So, if you or a loved one is in trouble – you've got a drug case, you're facing over a decade in prison, for example, pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. Let my 30 years of experience work for you. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County and offers a free case consultation by phone or using the contact form.