Factors that affect sentencing for drug crimes

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Every individual who winds up charged with a drug-related offense faces an uncertain – and frightening – future. If you are in this situation, your primary concern is likely what the possible sentence will be if you are convicted.

Sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums for various offenses dictate the range of possible sentences for a specific charge. However, other factors can influence the penalties of a specific drug conviction.

Factors that can affect your outcome

If you are accused of drug charges in California, the courts consider several elements when calculating a sentence, including:

  • Your history of drug offenses
  • Your age
  • The type of drug involved
  • Whether you were the only person involved
  • Whether the offense involved violence
  • How you feel (whether you are remorseful)

These details will vary by case, and they give judges the ability to adjust suggested penalties to fit the circumstances.

Appealing a sentence

In some cases, even after the courts take the above factors into account, they still arrive at an unfair, unreasonable sentence.

For instance, a federal court recently overturned a 17-year sentence for a woman who pleaded guilty to possessing opioids she acquired through forging prescriptions.

On appeal, the judge determined that the sentence did not appropriately reflect the woman’s circumstances, which involved a severe drug addiction. Sources note that the woman became addicted to opioids after she was prescribed them as a teenager when she was recovering from a serious injury. Because of this and other factors of the case, the judge overturned the sentence.

Presenting your case

This information can help you understand the importance of defending yourself and presenting your case to the courts. Not only will your efforts determine whether you are convicted of a drug offense, but putting the situation into context can give the courts necessary details that might prompt them to adjust a sentence. 

Drug-related charges, particularly those involving opioids, can go hand-in-hand with painful, personal circumstances. And aggressive penalties like lengthy incarceration periods are typically not reasonable for first-time, non-violent parties with a drug addiction.

That said, such an outcome is possible under state and federal sentencing guidelines, which is why it is crucial to take your defense seriously.