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The penalties for federal drug trafficking charges are serious. Depending on the type and amount of the substance involved, prison sentences can range from up to 1 year to life. And yet, the punishments can be even more severe if certain circumstances are present.

A federal judge could impose more severe penalties if a firearm was involved in the drug trafficking offense. In other words, a person convicted of drug trafficking who is also found guilty of having a firearm to further the crime can be sentenced to an even longer prison term.

When the Firearm Enhancement Penalty Applies

The drug trafficking firearm enhancement penalty applies only in specific situations.

These include when the defendant allegedly:

  • Used a firearm during the crime
  • Possessed or carried a firearm during the crime
  • Used armor-piercing ammunition during the crime
  • Possessed or carried armor-piercing ammunition during the crime

Note that merely possessing a firearm or armor-piercing ammunition at the time of the offense does not necessarily mean that the defendant will be subject to the enhancement. The prosecution must prove that the defendant had them to further the drug trafficking offense to seek increased penalties.

The Penalties for Having a Firearm to Further a Drug Crime

The number of years that can be added to a drug trafficking prison sentence depends on several factors, including how the weapon was used, what weapon was used or present, and whether the defendant has prior convictions for the offense.

Firearm enhancements for a first offense are as follows:

  • 5 years
    • Generally
  • 7 years
    • Firearm was brandished
  • 10 years
    • Firearm was discharged
    • Firearm was a short-barreled rifle
    • Firearm was a short-barreled shotgun
    • Firearm was a semiautomatic assault rifle
  • 30 years
    • Firearm was a machine gun
    • Weapon was a destructive device
    • Firearm was equipped with a silencer or muffler

If the defendant allegedly used or possessed armor-piercing bullets, they face an additional 15-year sentence. However, if death resulted, they could be imprisoned for life.

Firearm enhancements for a second offense are as follows:

  • 25 years
    • Generally
  • Life imprisonment
    • Firearm was a machine gun
    • Weapon was a destructive device
    • Firearm was equipped with a silencer or muffler

Note that the firearm penalty enhancements are in addition to those for the underlying offense. Also, the additional term cannot run concurrently with the sentence for the drug crime. It must run consecutively, meaning one term must finish before the other begins.

For instance, suppose the defendant is convicted of trafficking 100 kilograms or more of a substance containing marijuana. Additionally, they were found guilty of possessing a firearm to further the offense. For the drug crime, they are sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. For possessing a firearm, they are sentenced to an additional 5 years. Thus, they will first serve the 10-year sentence and then the 5-year, bringing the total time of imprisonment to 15 years.

Also, anyone convicted of using a firearm to further a drug trafficking charge is not eligible for parole.

Facing a federal crime accusation is serious and puts your entire future at risk. For the legal representation you need to fight your charge, turn to Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez, P.A.

Schedule a free consultation by calling us at (305) 400-0074 or contacting us online today.

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