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    Federal Sentences for Drug Dealing Convictions in Philadelphia

    Page last reviewed and updated: September 16, 2020

    Under U.S. federal sentencing laws, possession of a substantial amount of drugs with intent to deliver or manufacture almost always leads to a lengthy prison sentence. This is especially true in federal criminal cases involving repeat offenses and cases in which death or serious bodily injury occurs. Under the federal drug sentencing guidelines, repeat offenders and individuals charged with drug dealing where death or serious injury occurred often face LIFE sentences.

    2019 Federal Sentencing Law Update: Under the Dec. 2018 First Step Act, mandatory minimum sentencing law has changed significantly for high quantity drug dealing cases (not involving death or serious injury). A 2nd offense now triggers a 15 year sentence, and a 3rd offense triggers a 25 year sentence. These changes are reflected in the tables below.

    Federal criminal drug cases accepted in Pennsylvania including Philadelphia, Delaware County, Montgomery County, etc. FREE CONSULTATIONS (215) 564-0644

    These harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws were passed nearly 30 years ago, due to the “war on drugs.” See US Code, Section 841. Since then, literally 1,00s of men and women in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties have been imprisoned for various drug related offenses. Below is an explanation of the federal sentencing guidelines for drug dealing convictions.

    Federal Sentences for High Quantity Drug Convictions (Possession with Intent to Deliver/Manufacture)

    Under Section 841, individuals who possess large quantities of drugs face very harsh sentences. The high quantity sentencing provisions apply to possession of more than any of the following:

    • 5 kg of cocaine,
    • 1 kg of heroin,
    • 280 grams crack cocaine,
    • 50 grams of methamphetamines,
    • 500 grams of methamphetamine mixture, or
    • 1000 kg of marijuana (or plants).
    NO DEATH/SERIOUS BODILY INJURY1st offense2nd Offense3rd+ Offense
    Minimum10 years20 years 15 yearsLIFE 25 years
    MaximumLIFELIFELIFE
    Minimum Supervised Release5 years10 yearsn/a
    DEATH/SERIOUS BODILY INJURY1st offense2nd Offense3rd+ Offense
    Minimum20 yearsLIFELIFE
    MaximumLIFELIFELIFE
    Minimum Supervised Release5 yearsn/an/a

    Federal Sentences for Medium Quantity Drug Convictions (Possession with Intent to Deliver/Manufacture)

    Under Section 841, individuals who possess medium quantities of drugs face very harsh sentences. The medium quantity sentencing provisions apply to possession of more than any of the following:

    • 500 grams of cocaine,
    • 100 grams of heroin,
    • 28 grams crack cocaine,
    • 5 grams of methamphetamines,
    • 50 grams of methamphetamine mixture, or
    • 100 kg of marijuana (or plants).
    NO DEATH/SERIOUS BODILY INJURY1st offense2nd Offense3rd+ Offense
    Minimum5 years10 years10 years
    Maximum40 yearsLIFELIFE
    Minimum Supervised Release4 years8 years8 years
    DEATH/SERIOUS BODILY INJURY1st offense2nd Offense3rd+ Offense
    Minimum20 yearsLIFELIFE
    MaximumLIFELIFELIFE
    Minimum Supervised Release4 yearsn/an/a

    Federal Sentences for Low Quantity Drug Convictions (Possession with Intent to Deliver/Manufacture)

    Under Section 841, individuals who possess even small quantities of drugs face very harsh sentences. The low quantity sentencing provisions apply to possession of less than any of the following:

    • 500 grams of cocaine,
    • 100 grams of heroin,
    • 28 grams crack cocaine,
    • 5 grams of methamphetamines,
    • 50 grams of methamphetamine mixture, or
    • 50 kg of marijuana (or plants).
    NO DEATH/SERIOUS BODILY INJURY1st offense2nd Offense3rd+ Offense
    MinimumNoneNoneNone
    Maximum20 years30 years30 years
    Minimum Supervised Release3 years6 years6 years
    DEATH/SERIOUS BODILY INJURY1st offense2nd Offense3rd+ Offense
    Minimum20 yearsLIFELIFE
    MaximumLIFELIFELIFE
    Minimum Supervised Release3 yearsn/an/a

    Related: Auto Stop Yielding Large Amounts of Cocaine, Suppression Granted by Philadelphia Trial Judge

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