Understanding Marijuana Trafficking and Distribution Charges

When the FBI or DEA investigate and prosecute federal marijuana offenses they always involve large quantities and typically interstate or international transportation. The average amount of marijuana for each case in 2013 was about 200 pounds of marijuana.

Federal conspiracy laws allow prosecution of all persons involved including drivers. About 25% of all marijuana trafficking cases in federal court involved defendants who played a minor role and they received reduced sentences due to their minimal participation in the conspiracies.

In fact, the trend over the past five years for federal prosecutions involving marijuana in Michigan has been sentences beneath the applicable sentencing guidelines. That has definitely been the case with clients of Barton Morris. With effective and skilled arguments, marijuana sentences have been lower than a decade ago.

In 2013 23% of all federal drug prosecutions were related to marijuana trafficking. That percentage has been steadily decreasing since 2009 likely do to the increase of state medical marijuana laws

A conviction involving 100 kilograms of marijuana or 100 marijuana plants regardless of its weight carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

1000 kilograms or 1000 plants carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison

The average sentence for federal marijuana trafficking cases is a little more than three years in prison

Safety Valve Exception to Mandatory Minimums in Federal Drug Cases

A sentencing court can ignore the mandatory minimum sentence and give a more lenient sentence if the following conditions are met

  • The offender has no prior criminal record
  • The offender did not use violence or a firearm
  • The offense did not result in death or bodily injury to another person
  • The offender was not a leader, organizer, manager or supervisor of others in the offense
  • The defendant must have provided the government truthful information and evidence concerning the offense and other offenses that were part of the same course of conduct or of a common scheme or plan. If the defendant does not have any relevant or useful information to provide to the government shall not preclude a determination by the court that the defendant has complied with this requirement

Much like state law enforcement agencies, federal authorities rely heavily upon information and cooperation from defendants to identify new suspects. They use covert surveillance and monitoring of undercover informants to set up people who they hope will be larger busts. These informants are therefore can become state agents whom entrapment defenses can be established. Further, defendants who are trying to minimize their prison sentence are more willing to lie. They are not as credible and are easily attacked. Federal prosecutors will often times delay prosecution of informants for years in an attempt to make them more credible and less susceptible to defense scrutiny and attack

Federal law enforcement also have monetary motivation as they sometimes share in large cash seizures which can motivate unlawful police practices such as fraudulent affidavits and questionable federal search warrants. A good federal drug defense attorney must always properly evaluate and challenge federal search warrants as they are used in almost every case. They are often times used unlawfully.

 

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