If you have come to the attention of federal authorities in Atlanta or anywhere in Georgia for possessing, selling, or trafficking illegal drugs, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately. Molly Hiland Parmer is an aggressive, persuasive defense attorney in Atlanta who provides clients with an effective strategy when facing federal drug prosecutions. She understands the federal criminal justice system and how the United States Sentencing Guidelines and changes in federal law could affect your case. Knowledge of the guidelines is particularly important in federal drug cases, where prison sentences are exceptionally harsh. Depending on the facts of the crime and your criminal history, if charged with a federal drug offense, you may face decades or even life in prison. In order to successfully fight the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the federal prosecutors handling your case, you need a powerful, knowledgeable advocate ready to defend you from all angles.
Federal judges have discretion to depart from United States Sentencing Guidelines, although in most cases they must stay within the mandatory minimum and maximum terms specified by statute. For example, possessing with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of powder cocaine typically requires a mandatory minimum of five years in prison. More than five kilograms of cocaine requires a mandatory minimum of 10 years. For cocaine base, also known as crack cocaine, 28 grams results in a minimum five-year prison sentence, and 280 grams leads to a minimum of 10 years in prison. Trafficking 100 grams of heroin results in a minimum five-year prison sentence, and trafficking 1 kilogram gram leads to a minimum of 10 years in prison.
There are other ways for federal prosecutors to enhance your sentence in a drug case as well, such as the “851 enhancement”, which applies to defendants with certain prior drug felonies. The prosecutor may also argue that you are a career offender, which is a special designation used within the United States Sentencing Guidelines for certain convicted defendants. When a defendant qualifies as a career offender, he is automatically placed in a criminal history category VI and faces a much higher sentence.
A good lawyer knows methods to get around the statutory mandatory minimums and sentencing enhancements in federal drug prosecutions, however. For example, you may be eligible for “safety valve” relief. The safety valve is a provision in the United States Sentencing Guidelines that authorizes a sentence below the statutory minimum for certain nonviolent, non-managerial drug offenders with little or no criminal history. The First Step Act has expanded the eligibility criteria for safety valve relief and it is crucial to hire an attorney who is familiar with this provision of law and the ways it has recently been modified. There are also ways to argue against a career offender designation or an enhanced statutory penalty, though you will need an attorney who is familiar with this type of litigation and the specialized motion practice it requires. The First Step Act has also reduced and restricted sentencing for prior drug felonies and replaced the term “felony drug offense” with “serious drug felony”. In order to effectively fight your charges, you will need a lawyer who understands these nuances in terminology.
The federal criminal justice system is significantly more complicated to navigate than the state court system and penalties for drug offenses can be much higher. Even when the criminal conduct in question is the same, federal drug offenses differ from those at the state level. It is imperative that you hire an attorney like Molly, who is familiar with federal criminal practice.