Federal Cocaine Laws

It is important to understand that although New York Laws prohibit the possession, sale, and transport of certain illegal drugs, there are also federal laws with much harsher sentences that prohibit the same activities. When local law enforcement comes across a large-scale manufacture or distribution operation, the criminal case is often taken over by the United States Attorney’s Office and prosecuted in federal court. Monroe, Livingston, Ontario, and Genesee Counties all lie within the geographic jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York (USDC WDNY). That is the court where these crimes are prosecuted.

If you are charged in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York with distributing crack or powder cocaine, you have good reason to be seeking counsel, and the drug defense lawyers at Jeannie D. Michalski are ready to help. Crack and cocaine are made from the same coca leaves, but as you will see below, the penalties for crack are much more harsh than the penalties for cocaine under federal law. Although the federal judges in the Western District are all intelligent and thoughtful about sentencing, their hands are largely tied by the mandatory minimum sentencing laws set by Congress. You need a narcotics defense attorney who is proactive and ready to protect your rights.

Experienced Counsel is Available throughout the Western District

The jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York reaches from the southern shore of Lake Ontario to the northern border of Pennsylvania, and from Lake Erie on the west to an eastern boundary that lies between Rochester and Syracuse. There are two courthouses in the Western District – the primary courthouse in Buffalo, and the secondary courthouse in Rochester. This is one instance where Jeannie Michalski will travel to Buffalo, simply because the geographic boundary of the Federal Court’s jurisdiction is so large. If you are charged with drug crimes in federal court, whether your case is being heard in Buffalo or Rochester, call us – we want to help.

Let an experienced drug defense lawyer review your case. We want to examine the circumstances of your arrest, scrutinize any warrants to see if they were properly obtained and executed, and find any holes that might exist in the prosecution’s case. Jeannie Michalski was a narcotics prosecutor for years before she joined Jeannie D. Michalski – let our expertise work for you.

21 United States Code, Chapt. 13, Sub. II, § 960 declares it an unlawful act to import or export cocaine; possess cocaine on a vessel, aircraft, or vehicle; manufacture, possess, distribute or intend to distribute cocaine. This section of the law applies to all forms of coca – from unprocessed coca leaves to powder cocaine and crack cocaine. It also mandates harsher punishments for crack. There has been a great public debate on why crack cocaine is punished more harshly than powder cocaine. There is concern that the punishments are inherently racist, and that they differ because of the perception that white people use powder cocaine while black people use crack. Although the debate has been going on for some time, the laws still disfavor against users of crack cocaine, as you will see below.

The penalties for breaking 21 USC § 960 by possessing or distributing cocaine are as follows:

Less than 500 grams of cocaine or 5 grams of crack:

The penalty for possessing, transporting, or selling:

  • a) less than 500 grams of cocaine or coca leaves; or
  • b) less than 5 grams of crack cocaine; is
a sentence of up to 20 years in a federal penitentiary. If a person uses the cocaine and suffers serious injury or dies, the sentence goes up to 20 – life. There is a fine authorized up to $5,000,000 for businesses or $1,000,000 for individuals. There must also be at least 3 years of post-release supervision for first-time offenders. No probation, suspended sentence, or parole is allowed if somebody dies or is seriously hurt from using the cocaine. Second offenders get up to 30 years in federal prison plus 6 years of supervised release.500 grams of cocaine or 5 grams of crack:

The penalty for possessing, transporting, or selling:

  • a) more than 500 grams but less than 5 kilograms of cocaine or coca leaves; or
  • b) more than 5 grams but less than 50 grams of crack cocaine; is
a sentence in federal prison of 5 – 40 years. If somebody uses the cocaine or crack and suffers serious injury or dies, the sentence goes up to 20 – life. There is a fine authorized up to $5,000,000 for businesses - $2,000,000 for individuals. There must also be at least 4 years of post-release supervision for first-time offenders. No suspended sentence of probation in lieu of jail is allowed. No early parole is allowed. Second offenders get 10 – life plus eight years of supervised release.5+ kilograms of cocaine or 50+ grams of crack:

The penalty for possessing, transporting, or selling:

  • a) more than 5 kilograms of cocaine or coca leaves; or
  • b) 50 grams or more of crack cocaine; is
a sentence in federal prison of 10 years - life. If somebody uses the cocaine or crack and suffers serious injury or dies, the sentence goes up to 20 – life. There is a fine authorized up to $10,000,000 for businesses - $4,000,000 for individuals. There must also be at least 5 years of post-release supervision for first-time offenders. No suspended sentence of probation in lieu of jail is allowed. No early parole is allowed. Second offenders get 20 – life plus 10 years of supervised release.

These drug laws are harsh – especially the laws pertaining to crack cocaine. Nevertheless, they are nothing compared to the penalties for possessing illegal drugs while also possessing a firearm. If you need an attorney to help you with a federal drug and weapons charge, call Jeannie D. Michalski at (585) 351-2500 for a free criminal consultation.