Facing a federal drug trafficking charge is undoubtedly a scary and uncertain time for you and your family. It’s a very serious criminal offense that can carry maximum penalties up to life in prison and high mandatory minimum sentences—sometimes even up to 20 years. That’s why it’s important to make sure you do everything you can to face the problem head-on and work with an experienced criminal defense attorney from the earliest opportunity. Below, I discuss the only two ways that you can use to increase the likelihood of getting a mandatory minimum sentence waived in a federal drug trafficking case.
1. Safety Valve Method
“Safety Valve” is the easiest way to have a minimum mandatory sentence waived in federal court. However, not everyone can qualify for safety valve. The requirements that must all be met are: 1) the defendant must have little or no criminal history, which unfortunately rules out a lot of defendants with criminal records, even if those records aren’t related to the current charge; 2) the defendant did not use violence or threats of violence or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon in connection with the offense charged; 3) the offense did not result in death or serious bodily injury to any person; 4) the defendant was not an organizer or leader of the offense; and 5) the defendant must truthfully provide all information and evidence that he/she has about the offense to the government, no later than at the time of sentencing.
Only complete and total honesty will qualify you for this method and it is essential that it is only exercised with caution. Caution is crucial because lying in any capacity to the government will disqualify you, and can actually lead to a longer sentence than if you hadn’t sought the safety valve method in the first place. Your sentence can increase in these situations because lying allows the government to add on additional charges like “obstruction of justice,” which increases the severity of your offense and its subsequent sentence.
If safety valve isn’t an option, another way to get your mandatory minimum sentence waived is through cooperation. It goes without saying that cooperating with the authorities in an investigation can be a good idea in some circumstances. However, more than just merely giving a truthful statement to the government regarding your conduct, you would have to be prepared to provide “substantial assistance” to the government. Substantial assistance is very involved and usually means the defendant has provided information that has led to the arrest and prosecution of another. Based on this, it follows that cooperation is not available to everyone. Sometimes you won’t know enough or might not be willing to cooperate because you’re scared.
If you are able and willing to cooperate, and your cooperation is considered “substantial,” it can result in a waived mandatory minimum when the prosecutor asks the judge for a reduced sentence. When this happens, the judge usually obliges the prosecution’s request, thus successfully resulting in a waiver of the harsh mandatory minimums associated with your charge. So, although this is a very important tool that all defendants initially have at their disposal, actually being able to provide enough assistance to the point that the prosecution is satisfied isn’t always possible.
Work with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney.
Mandatory minimum sentences are scary, and it takes a very skilled and experienced attorney to make sure the very delicate process to get them waived is done correctly. At Puglisi Law, our team regularly helps to defend our clients who have been accused of serious federal and state criminal offenses. We know that defendants deserve the same amount of respect as any other party and want to help you get the most favorable outcome possible. If you or someone you love has been charged with federal drug trafficking, please contact our Miami office at (305) 403-8063 or visit us at https://www.puglisilaw.com today!