drug offenses

Mandatory Minimum Federal Prison Sentences for Drug Trafficking Offenses

By Peek & Toland on October 16, 2019

Federal law has historically provided for harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug trafficking offenses. Judges had no discretion to deviate from these mandatory minimum sentences. The First Step Act of 2018, however, which President Trump signed into law in December 2018, modifies some of these mandatory minimum sentences and other penalties for drug trafficking and related drug offenses.

Individuals with one prior qualifying conviction previously were subject to a 20-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. The First Step Act decreases the mandatory minimum sentence to 15 years. Likewise, for individuals with two prior qualifying convictions, the mandatory minimum prison sentence decreases from a life sentence to 25 years in federal prison.

Mandatory Minimum Federal Prison Sentences for Drug Trafficking Offenses

The First Step Act also modifies mandatory minimum prison sentences for some drug traffickers with prior convictions. The Act increases the threshold for prior convictions that trigger higher mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders. Now, for mandatory minimum sentences to apply, the prior convictions must qualify under the Act’s new definitions for “serious drug felony” or “serious violent felony.” Previously, mandatory minimum sentences applied if individuals had a prior conviction for any felony drug offense. This change can lead to lower mandatory minimum prison sentences for some drug traffickers.

Another feature of the First Step Act is that it eliminates the “stacking” provision. This provision allowed federal prosecutors to charge individuals with a second and subsequent use of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking or a violent crime in the same criminal incident. The stacking provision led to a 25-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. Now, prosecutors only can impose this mandatory minimum sentence if they have a prior conviction for the use of a firearm in a drug trafficking or a violent crime from a previous criminal incident.

If you or a family member is facing accusations of drug trafficking or any other criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes

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Can a Passenger Be Charged if Police Find Drugs in the Vehicle?

By Peek & Toland on April 8, 2019

You can face drug charges under Texas law if you are a passenger in a vehicle in which the police find drugs. The test for a criminal charge depends upon whether you had care, custody, and control of the drugs as a passenger in the vehicle. In other words, there must be a direct link between the drugs found in the vehicle and the persons occupying the vehicle.

For instance, if drugs are located in the glove compartment, and both the driver and a passenger admit that they knew the drugs were there, they both could face drug charges. If, however, both driver and passenger deny knowing about the drugs in the glove compartment, then the passenger may be in a better position with respect to criminal charges; since the vehicle belonged to the driver, then he presumably would have a stronger link to the drugs than the passenger, who might never have ridden in the car before.

Can a Passenger Be Charged if Police Find Drugs in the Vehicle?

Whether you will face drug charges as a passenger in a vehicle also may depend on the location of the drugs in the vehicle. For example, if you were seated in the front passenger seat and the police located drugs under your seat, then you likely would face charges. If, however, you were seated in the back seat of someone else’s car, and the police located drugs in the trunk of the car, it would be far more difficult to charge you with a drug offense.

If you find yourself charged with any type of criminal offense, you need legal advice that only experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can offer you. As the consequences of any criminal conviction may be severe, you should immediately contact a skilled defense lawyer for help if you have been accused of a criminal offense. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for individuals who are charged with various crimes. It is our priority is to represent your interests and protect your rights.  Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

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Supreme Court Keeps Medical Marijuana Illegal Under Federal Law

By Peek & Toland on November 16, 2016

More than 20 states have legalized medical marijuana following evidence the drug can help sufferers with a wide range of conditions. However, medical marijuana is still banned in Texas and the U.S. Supreme Court recently resisted pressure to legalize it under federal law.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to make an exception that would legalize the medical use of the drug.

Marijuana is labeled an illegal “controlled substance” under federal law. In a unanimous 8-0 ruling, the nation’s highest court ruled that patients with serious diseases who take the drug for pain release are doing so illegally, reported ABC News.

Medical marijuana remains illegal at a federal level

At Peek & Toland we represent people who are charged with drug crimes such as possession in Texas.

Medical marijuana is used to treat a wide range of conditions including MS, cancer, HIV and Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It alarms us that people who are suffering from very serious conditions could be criminalized for using something that may help treat their conditions.

However, medical marijuana remains a banned drug at the federal level following the Supreme Court decision.

The Supreme Court’s ruling did not overturn the rules of states that have legalized medical marijuana. However, it potentially leaves users open to prosecution by the federal government.

The ABC report stated advocates of medical cannabis were disappointed by the ruling.

Reaction to the Supreme Court’s Decision on Medical Marijuana

Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the NORML Foundation (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), stated his concern that the federal government might get involved in enforcement against users. He said.

“Our hope is the federal government is not going to go and reach down and pull people who get caught with very small amounts of marijuana, using it for medical purposes, and elevate them to a federal case.”

Many people with serious diseases say medical marijuana helps them cope. However, the medical community remains divided over the issue. The ABC report noted a government study concluded it does ease pain and nausea but also delivers “harmful substances.”

While studies are inconclusive, the criminal law remains a heavy-handed way to deal with the issue of medical marijuana.

Our Austin drug defense attorneys represent people who have been charged with a wide range of drug offenses. Call us today for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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