Being arrested for possessing a small amount of drugs may seem like a minor problem. However, if someone has a history of drug crimes, this type of arrest can lead to surprisingly serious consequences. This is what a Maryland man recently discovered.
In May 2008, an undercover sting apparently revealed that a 34-year-old man possessed three small containers of cocaine and $214 in cash. This was not the man’s first encounter with drugs. He had been convicted of narcotics felonies twice before. However, he had only served a total of six days in jail for those non-violent crimes and had completed the terms of his probation without being convicted of new crimes.
However, because of his previous record, the matter proceeded to federal court. The defendant pleaded guilty to one count of dealing cocaine. While a number of legal experts agree that a reasonable sentence for this offense would be one to two years of house arrest, so the defendant could retain his job and be with his family, the federal court saw things differently.
Because of his two previous drug-related convictions, the defendant was classified as a career offender and was subject to stiff federal sentencing guidelines of 151 to 188 months in prison. The court chose a penalty on the low end of the guidelines, but 151 months, or 12 years, in prison is a high price to pay for the small amount of drugs found in the man’s possession.
Typically, drug cases tried in federal court involve violent traffickers embroiled in large conspiracies. However, sometimes authorities choose to aggressively pursue more average drug offenders such as this defendant. This can happen when someone has been arrested repeatedly or is suspected of certain types of crimes. That is why is it important for a defendant to consult with a defense attorney when charged with any type of drug crime.