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Federal Drug Cases

In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, and the U.S. government has since been engaged in a War on Drugs. In this war, the enemy are most often people within the country’s own borders. The federal government uses its significant resources to fight this war in New York City through aggressive prosecution of drug offenses, especially trafficking.

On many offenses, federal law can be harsher than New York State law — in some cases, much harsher. Drug cases often involve mandatory minimum sentences, which may result in decades in federal prison. Greco Neyland, PC can help identify what options you may have to avoid these serious penalties.

Manhattan Federal Drug Defense Lawyer

The attorneys at Greco Neyland, PC have extensive experience fighting for the rights of those accused of controlled substance offenses before U.S. District Courts in Manhattan or Brooklyn. Whether your case calls for skilled negotiation to reach a plea bargain or downward departure or if it calls for zealous courtroom advocacy, we are prepared.

We will advise you of all your options and dedicate ourselves to achieving the best possible results. As former prosecutors, we understand how the other side works. We put that knowledge to work for our clients in negotiations and in developing a defense strategy.

Decades of your life could be at stake. Put them in the hands of a Manhattan federal drug defense lawyer who has experience with advocating in U.S. courts. Call Greco Neyland, PC today at (212) 951-1300 to schedule a free consultation for your Manhattan or Brooklyn federal case.


New York Overview of Federal Drug Charges


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Substances Regulated and Outlawed in U.S. Code

According to 21 U.S.C § 811, the U.S. Attorney General has the authority to place any substance on the list of drugs found in the Controlled Substance Act. Under the Act, it is illegal to even possess these substances unless the person possessing it has sufficient legal permission. For example, a person may not possess codeine unless he or she has a prescription, which constitutes legal permission.

The law groups these substances into “schedules” according to how severe the possibilities for abuse and addiction are, and the use they have in medicine.  The schedules often come into play for determining the extent of penalties.

Schedule I

These are the substances that the government has determined have a high potential for abuse and no medical use.

Examples: Heroin, MDMA (ecstasy), LSD (acid), marihuana, mescaline

Schedule II

The government has determined these substances have a high potential for abuse, but have some type of accepted medical use with severe restrictions. They have a high potential for addiction.

Examples: Cocaine, oxycodone, methadone, methamphetamine (meth)

Schedule III

These have less potential for abuse, and have some sort of accepted medical use. They have a moderate to low potential for physical or psychological dependence.

Examples: Anabolic steroids, ketamine, painkillers with less than 90 milligrams of codeine

Schedule IV

Substances in Schedule IV have a low potential for abuse with limited potential for addiction. They have a currently accepted medical use.

Examples: Xanax, Ambien, Soma

Schedule V

These have the lowest potential for abuse, limited potential for addiction and a currently accepted medical use.

Examples: Robitussin AC, Lomotil, Lyrica


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Types of Federal Charges

Even the mere possession of any controlled substance without permission, like a prescription, is illegal under federal law. Federal agents have jurisdiction everywhere in New York, so if they search you or your property and allege to have found drugs, you could face federal charges.

More often, federal law enforcement agencies are interested in prosecuting trafficking. Trafficking is the selling, manufacturing, delivery or cultivation of controlled substances, or possessing those substances with the intent to do so. It can range from international cartels to small neighborhood drug rings.

Anyone involved in trafficking can face conspiracy charges under 21 U.S.C § 846. This can include people who are alleged to have transported drugs, assisted in the manufacture of substances, purchased or provided chemicals or other materials for manufacturing substances, provided space for the manufacture of drugs or laundered drug money. Conspiracy charges carry the same penalties as the underlying offense, including mandatory minimum sentences.


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Federal Agencies Investigating Controlled Substance Crimes

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is specifically charged with enforcing the Controlled Substances Act. They are typically responsible for investigating drug trafficking offenses. Their New York Division is headquartered in Chelsea.

Any federal law enforcement, though, has jurisdiction to make a drug arrest, including any that are incident to any other crime they are investigating. This includes:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
  • U.S. Marshals Service
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • U.S. Secret Service
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • Transportation Security Administration

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Mandatory Minimum Sentencing on a Federal Level

A mandatory minimum sentence means, if convicted of a charge in which the U.S. Attorney can prove certain circumstances, the assigned penalty is the best punishment the defendant is eligible to receive. The judge has no discretion in lowering the sentence, no matter the mitigating circumstances may exist.

Trafficking charges often carry mandatory minimum sentences. The sentence typically depends on the type of drug, the amount of the drug possessed, whether anyone was seriously injured or killed, and the number of prior offenses.

Other circumstances, even for small-time distribution, can result in a mandatory minimum. For example, distribution to a person younger than 21 or near a school will result in a mandatory minimum of at least one year.

Certain trafficking offenses can carry a mandatory minimum of life in prison, for example, if the defendant is convicted of being a principal, organizer or leader (“kingpin”) of a continuing criminal enterprise.


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Avoiding a Mandatory Minimum

If you are facing serious trafficking charges or any other charge with a mandatory minimum, there is no reason to lose hope. There are some ways to avoid the severest penalties, and a knowledgeable defense attorney with experience in New York federal courts is best equipped to seek them.

For instance, Title 18 U.S. Code § 3553(f) provides Limitation on Applicability of Statutory Minimums in Certain Cases, otherwise known as a “safety valve.” This provision allows the court to impose a sentence without regard to statutory minimum sentences only if the government makes the recommendation that the accused person meets all of the following requirements:

  • The defendant does not have more than one criminal history point, as determined under the sentencing guidelines
  • The defendant did not use violence, credible threats of violence, or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon (or induce another participant to do so) in connection with the offense
  • The alleged offense did not result in death or serious bodily injury to any person
  • The defendant was not an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor of others in the offense, as determined under the sentencing guidelines and was not engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise
  • Not later than the time of the sentencing hearing, the defendant has truthfully provided to the government all information and evidence the defendant has concerning the offense or offenses that were part of the same course of conduct or of a common scheme or plan, although the defendant having no relevant or useful other information to provide or the Government already being aware of the information will not preclude a determination by the court that the defendant has complied with this requirement

“Substantial assistance” is another possibility. If you cooperate with an investigation and give information that contributes to the prosecution of another criminal suspect, you may receive a “downward departure”—a sentence that is less than the range that normally applies under federal sentencing guidelines if reliable information indicates that your criminal history category substantially over-represents the seriousness of your criminal history or the likelihood that you will commit another crime.

It is extremely important that you be well-represented in negotiating such a deal. You may give incriminating evidence against yourself, and if the information turns out to not be useful or does not result in a successful prosecution, the offer may be withdrawn and you could face certain conviction for a mandatory minimum offense.


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Federal Drug Charge Resources

The Drug Policy Alliance — The DPA promotes drug policies that are “grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.” It is involved in the legislative process and strives to reverse excesses of the War on Drugs, block harmful new initiatives, and promote sensible reforms to drug policy.

131 West 33rd Street
15th Floor
New York, NY 10001
(212) 613-8020

The Sentencing Project — This organization has been brining national attention to inequities in the criminal justice system since 1986. It “works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.”


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Finding the Best Defense Attorney for Your Drug Charge in U.S. District Court

If you face drug charges in a U.S. District Court, it is vital that you understand all your legal options. The best choice you can make is to be represented by a Manhattan federal drug defense lawyer with a thorough understanding of federal sentencing, federal rules and federal courts. Schedule a consultation with one at Greco Neyland, PC today by calling (212) 951-1300.

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Jeff Greco
Jeffery Greco
Experience as a former prosecutor gives Jeffery Greco an edge in building the strongest possible defense strategy for the accused in New York City.
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Dustan Neyland
Dustan Neyland
A thorough investigation is key to finding every reasonable doubt and getting charges reduced or dismissed for NYC defense attorney Dustan Neyland.
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