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Kai Jackson
Kai Jackson

Poseidon(2006)44 Available Subtitles

This report is available in an abridged version, CRS Report R45075, Mandatory Minimum Sentencing of Federal Drug Offenses in Short, without the citations to authority and origin of quotations found here.

Poseidon(2006)44 Available subtitles

The minimum sentences range from imprisonment for a year to imprisonment for life. Although the sentences are usually referred to as mandatory minimum sentences, a defendant may avoid them under several circumstances. Prosecutors may elect not to prosecute. The President may choose to pardon the defendant or commute his sentence. The defendant may qualify for sentencing for providing authorities with substantial assistance or under the so-called "safety valve" provision available to low-level, nonviolent, first-time offenders.

The felony drug convictions that trigger the sentencing enhancement include federal, state, and foreign convictions.78 The "serious bodily injury" enhancement is confined to bodily injuries which involve "(A) a substantial risk of death; (B) protracted and obvious disfigurement; or (C) protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty."79 And, the "if death results" enhancement is available only if the drugs provided by the defendant were the "but-for" cause of death; it is not available if the drugs supplied were merely a contributing cause.80 The same "but for" standard presumably applies with equal force to the "serious bodily injury" enhancement.

Low-level drug offenders can escape some of the mandatory minimum sentences for which they qualify under the safety valve found in 18 U.S.C. 3553(f). Congress created the safety valve after it became concerned that the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions could have resulted in equally severe penalties for both the more and the less culpable offenders.195 The safety valve is available to qualified offenders convicted of violations of the possession-with-intent, simple possession, attempt, or conspiracy provisions of the Controlled Substances or Controlled Substances Import and Export Acts.196

The safety valve is not available to avoid the mandatory minimum sentences that attend other offenses, even those closely related to the covered offenses. Section 860 (21 U.S.C. 860), which outlaws violations of Section 841 near schools, playgrounds, or public housing facilities and sets the penalties for violation at twice what they would be under Section 841, is not covered. Those charged with a violation of Section 860 are not eligible for relief under the safety valve provisions.197 In addition, safety valve relief is not available to those convicted under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, even though the act proscribes conduct closely related to the smuggling and trafficking activities punished under Sections 960 and 963 (21 U.S.C. 960, 963).198

There followed a number of state and federal statutes under which facts that might earlier have been treated as elements of a new crime were simply classified as sentencing factors. In some instances, the new sentencing factor permitted imposition of a penalty far in excess of that otherwise available for the underlying offense. For instance, the Supreme Court found no constitutional defect in a statute which punished a deported alien for returning to the United States by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, but which permitted the alien to be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 20 years upon a post-trial, judicial determination that the alien had been convicted of a serious crime following deportation.302

United States v. Burkley, 513 F.3d 1183, 1189-90 (10th Cir,. 2008) ("A firearm is carried during and in relation to the underlying crime when the defendant avails himself of the weapon and ... the weapon plays an integral role in the underlying offense.... Thus, the government must prove that the defendant intended the firearm to be available for use in the offense.").

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