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.
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) 399-2311 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.