Public Safety

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Federal Legal Sanctions


Pursuant to federal law, the United States Sentencing Guidelines establish mandatory minimum penalties for categories of drug offenses and provide for penalty enhancements in specific cases.  Under these federal guidelines, courts can sentence a person for up to 6 years for unlawful possession of a controlled substance, including the distribution of a small amount (less than 250 grams) of marijuana; a sentence of life imprisonment can result from a conviction of possession of a controlled substance that results in death or bodily injury; and, possession of more than 5 grams of cocaine can trigger an intent to distribute penalty of 10-16 years in prison.  Following are the federal penalties and sanctions for illegal possession of controlled substances:

21 U.S.C. 844(a)
1st conviction: Up to 1 year imprisonment and fined at least $1,000 but not more than $100,000, or both.

After 1 prior drug conviction: At least 15 days in prison, not to exceed 2 years and fined at least $2,500 but not more than $250,000, or both.

After 2 or more prior drug convictions: At least 90 days in prison, not to exceed 3 years and fined at least $5,000 but not more than $250,000, or both.

21 U.S.C. 853(a)(2) and 881(a)(7)
Forfeiture of personal and real property used to possess or to facilitate possession of a controlled substance if that offense is punishable by more than 1 year imprisonment. (See special sentencing provisions re: crack, above).

21 U.S.C. 881(a)(4)
Forfeiture of vehicles, boats, aircraft or any other conveyance used to transport or conceal a controlled substance.

21 U.S.C. 844a
Civil fine of up to $10,000.

21 U.S.C. 862
Denial of Federal benefits, such as student loans, grants, contracts, and professional and commercial licenses, up to 1 year for first offense, up to 5 years for second and subsequent offenses.

18 U.S.C. 922(g)
Ineligible to purchase, receive or transport a firearm.  Miscellaneous Revocation of certain Federal licenses and benefits, e.g. pilot licenses, public housing tenancy, etc., are vested within the authorities of individual Federal agencies.

Note: These are only Federal penalties and sanctions.  Additional State penalties and sanctions may apply.

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Page Updated 11/20/2013