Texas Drug Trafficking Charges? How Mandatory Minimums Work

By February 8, 2019September 16th, 2021Drug Crimes, Drug Trafficking

 

Texas Drug Trafficking Charges? How Mandatory Minimums Work

Sentencing guidelines for Texas drug crimes are just that – guidelines. Sentencing is left to the discretion of the judge, and takes any aggravating or mitigating factors into account, together with any prior criminal history. All of these factors make up the final sentence, which for first-time offenders is typically on the lower end of the sentencing guidelines.

In other words, there aren’t really mandatory minimums in Texas. Not exactly.

This isn’t how things work at a federal level, however. Federal courts are notorious for strictly enforced mandatory minimums for drug crimes, which equate to a sentence much longer than you would likely be given if prosecuted for the same crime in Texas state courts.

Mandatory minimums are exactly what they sound like – the minimum jail sentence for certain crimes. In the past, mandatory minimums were reserved for serious offenses such as murder or treason.

By the end of 1986, that had all changed. In an effort to further “crack down” on drugs, the federal government implemented mandatory minimums for drug crimes, including drug trafficking.

This change profoundly impacted the federal criminal justice system, overloading federal prisons with non-violent drug offenders. Federal mandatory minimums also dramatically changed how drug crime charges were prosecuted and sentenced at a federal level.

Unfortunately, these mandatory minimums are still around today, and they could profoundly affect your sentence if you are convicted of a federal drug crime. Because of this, we’ve created a guide explaining how mandatory minimums work, and what kind of sentence you could face if convicted.

When Is Texas Drug Trafficking Prosecuted Federally?

Drug crimes can be prosecuted federally whenever the federal government decides that they want to step in. However, in the vast majority of cases, it is something that happens when drug crimes take place across state lines.

Of course, the very nature of drug trafficking means that the offense almost always crosses state or national borders. Despite this, not all drug trafficking charges are prosecuted at the federal level. Why?

Because of reason number two why feds might decide to prosecute a case: if it’s big enough.

Since the severity of drug trafficking charges depends first and foremost on the type and amount of drugs that are trafficked, the more drugs involved, the “bigger” the case is.

Add those two things together and you have most of the drug cases on the federal docket.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Federal Drug Trafficking

Drug crimes are prosecuted and sentenced based on the type and amount of substance in question. Therefore, federal mandatory minimum sentences are also based on the type and amount of drug, together with aggravating factors and prior drug crime convictions.

It’s also important to remember that parole is prohibited in federal prisons. Although you may have a minor reduction in your sentence for good behavior, you will be serving all or most of your prison sentence behind bars.

You can expect the following mandatory minimums if federally convicted of drug trafficking:

For Heroin and Fentanyl

Federal mandatory minimums for trafficking 100-999 grams of heroin or 40-399 grams of fentanyl are as follows:

  • First offense, no serious bodily injury: five years
  • First offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: 20 years
  • Second or more offense, no bodily injury: 10 years
  • Second or more offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: Life

Federal mandatory minimums for trafficking one kilogram or more of heroin or 400 grams or more of fentanyl are as follows:

  • First offense, no serious bodily injury: 10 years
  • First offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: 20 years
  • Second offense, no bodily injury: 20 years
  • Second offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: Life
  • Third offense regardless of bodily injury: Life

For Cocaine

When Is Texas Drug Trafficking Prosecuted Federally?

Federal mandatory minimums for trafficking 500-4999 grams of cocaine, or 5-49 grams of cocaine base are as follows:

  • First offense, no serious bodily injury: five years
  • First offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: 20 years
  • Second or more offense, no bodily injury: 10 years
  • Second or more offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: Life

Federal mandatory minimums for trafficking five kilograms or more of cocaine or 50 grams or more of cocaine base are as follows:

  • First offense, no serious bodily injury: 10 years
  • First offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: 20 years
  • Second offense, no bodily injury: 20 years
  • Second offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: Life
  • Third offense regardless of bodily injury: Life

For Methamphetamines

Federal mandatory minimums for trafficking 5-49 grams of pure methamphetamine or 40-499 grams of a methamphetamine mixture are as follows:

  • First offense, no serious bodily injury: five years
  • First offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: 20 years
  • Second or more offense, no bodily injury: 10 years
  • Second or more offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: Life

Federal mandatory minimums for trafficking 50 grams or more of pure methamphetamine or 500 grams or more of a methamphetamine mixture are as follows:

  • First offense, no serious bodily injury: 10 years
  • First offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: 20 years
  • Second offense, no bodily injury: 20 years
  • Second offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: Life
  • Third offense regardless of bodily injury: Life

For Marijuana

Although many states have relaxed their stances on the legality of marijuana, it remains very much illegal in Texas, and is still illegal federally. This means that if you traffic a large amount of marijuana over state lines, you will likely be prosecuted federally.

Federal mandatory minimums for trafficking 50-99 marijuana plants, 50-99 kilograms marijuana or more than one kilogram of hash oil are as follows:

  • First offense, no injury: No mandatory minimum, but up to 20 years
  • First offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: 20 years
  • Second or more offense with no injury: No mandatory minimum, but up to 30 years
  • Second or more offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: Life

Federal prison sentences for trafficking 100-999 kg of marijuana or 100-999 marijuana plants are as follows:

  • First offense, no injury: five years
  • First offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: 20 years
  • Second or more offense, no injury: 10 years
  • Second or more offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: Life

Federal mandatory minimums for trafficking 1000 kg or more of marijuana or 1000 or more marijuana plants are as follows:

Fort Worth Drug Trafficking Defense

As you can see, even the most minor trafficking offense comes with incredibly serious consequences. That’s why it’s so important to be proactive if you are facing federal drug trafficking charges, or have reason to believe that you are under investigation for drug trafficking.

  • First offense, no injury: 10 years
  • First offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: 20 years
  • Second or more offense, no injury: 20 years
  • Second or more offense with serious bodily harm or death as a result: Life

 

About the Author: 

After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.

 

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