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What are some facts about federal mandatory minimum drug sentences?

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2021 | Drug Charges

Federal mandatory minimum sentences are in place for many drug charges. If you face a charge with this type of sentence, it means the judge has to leeway and must hand down at least this sentence.

For example, if the minimum mandatory sentence is 10 years in prison, the judge must give you at least 10 years in prison. He or she could give you a harsher sentence but cannot be more lenient.

Relief from penalty

The United States Sentencing Commission does explain that there are ways to get relief from a mandatory minimum sentence. For example, in 2016, there were almost 40% of offenders who were facing this type of sentence, but who got relief from that sentence.

Sentences in federal crimes

Mandatory minimum sentences only accounted for about 13% of all sentences in 2016. So, these penalties are not too prevalent overall. However, they did account for about 67% of all drug cases, so they are common with drug charges.

Such sentences are also common with sex charges, which is the only other charge that sees many mandatory sentences.


Within the federal system, Hispanics were most likely to get a charge carrying a mandatory sentence. This group made up about 40% of offenders in 2016 sentenced under this requirement. To compare, black offenders made up a little under 30% and white offenders were around 27%.

The most cases came out of Porto Rico, followed by Hawaii, Florida and Illinois. Charges most common were for cocaine. Marijuana was the least common charge. Some cases also involved firearm charges, which impacted sentencing guidelines.


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