Service & Results.

nyc criminal lawyers over 30 years of experienceWe Know How To Win Cases

Spodek Law Group handles tough cases
nationwide, that demand excellence.

Get Free Consultation

Faced 5+ Years in Prison

People Vs Joseph Amico

Covered by NYDaily News. Las Vegas man accused of threatening a prominent attorney and making vile remarks.

Faced 10+ Years in Prison

People Vs. Anna Sorokin

Covered by New York Times, and other outlets. Fake heiress accused of conning the city’s wealthy, and has an HBO special being made about her.

Faced 3+ Years in Prison

People Vs. Genevieve Sabourin

Accused of stalking Alec Baldwin. The case garnered nationwide attention, with USAToday, NYPost, and other media outlets following it closely.

Faced Potential Charges

Ghislaine Maxwell Juror

Juror who prompted calls for new Ghislaine Maxwell trial turns to lawyer who defended Anna Sorokin.

Why Choose Us

Clients can use our portal to track the status of their case, stay in touch with us, upload documents, and more.

Regardless of the type of situation you're facing, our attorneys are here to help you get quality representation.

We can setup consultations in person, over Zoom, or over the phone to help you. Bottom line, we're here to help you win your case.

Law in the Media

View All

Meet Todd Spodek


The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

Todd Spodek is a second generation attorney with immense experience. He has many years of experience handling 100’s of tough and hard to win trials. He’s been featured on major news outlets, such as New York Post, Newsweek, Fox 5 New York, South China Morning Post, Insider.com, and many others.

In 2022, Netflix released a series about one of Todd’s clients: Anna Delvey/Anna Sorokin.

Why Clients Choose Spodek Law Group

The reason is simple: clients want white glove service, and lawyers who can win. Every single client who works with the Spodek Law Group is aware that the attorney they hire could drastically change the outcome of their case. Hiring the Spodek Law Group means you’re taking your future seriously. Our lawyers handle cases nationwide, ranging from NYC to LA. Our philosophy is fair and simple: our nyc criminal lawyers only take on clients who we know will benefit from our services.

We’re selective about the clients we work with, and only take on cases we know align with our experience – and where we can make a difference. This is different from other law firms who are not invested in your success nor care about your outcome.

If you have a legal issue, call us for a consultation.
We are available 24/7, to help you with any – and all, challenges you face.

How Do Federal Sentencing Guidelines Work for Drug Trafficking Charges?

By Spodek Law Group | October 19, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 20, 2023)

Last Updated on: 20th October 2023, 10:08 am

How Do Federal Sentencing Guidelines Work for Drug Trafficking Charges?

Drug trafficking charges at the federal level can lead to some of the harshest penalties in the U.S. criminal justice system. Federal sentencing guidelines provide a framework for judges to determine appropriate sentences based on the type and quantity of drugs involved, the defendant’s criminal history, and other factors.

Understanding how these guidelines work is critical for anyone facing federal drug trafficking charges. This article provides an overview of key aspects of federal sentencing for drug crimes to help make sense of these complex rules.

The Basics of Federal Sentencing Guidelines

The United States Sentencing Commission issues guidelines that federal judges consult when sentencing defendants convicted of federal crimes[5]. For drug offenses, the main guideline is §2D1.1 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual[5].

This guideline provides a table that assigns a “base offense level” from 1 to 43 based on the type and quantity of drugs involved. The greater the quantity, the higher the base offense level. This initial level is then adjusted up or down based on other factors to arrive at a final offense level.

A defendant’s criminal history determines their “Criminal History Category” on a scale of I to VI. By plotting the final offense level against the criminal history category on the guidelines table, judges determine the sentencing range in months.

While judges have some discretion, in most cases they must sentence within the guideline range. Mandatory minimum sentences prescribed by federal law may also apply, which override the guidelines by requiring longer sentences for certain quantities.

Key Factors in Federal Drug Sentencing

Here are some of the most important factors that impact sentences under federal sentencing guidelines for drug crimes:

Type and Quantity of Drugs

Not all drugs are treated equally. The guidelines provide the harshest punishments for drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl[1]. Even small amounts of these drugs can trigger years in prison.

The minimum quantity to receive a mandatory minimum 5-year sentence is[2]:

  • 5 grams of meth
  • 28 grams of crack cocaine
  • 40 grams of fentanyl
  • 100 grams of heroin

Trafficking larger quantities can lead to 10-year, 20-year, or even life sentences under the guidelines[2].

Defendant’s Criminal History

The sentencing range increases significantly for those with a more extensive criminal record. A Category I criminal history (little or no prior crimes) leads to a much lower range than Category VI (repeat offender)[5].

Having prior drug felony convictions can also trigger mandatory minimum sentences that increase the guidelines range[5]. For example, a 10-year mandatory minimum may apply if the defendant has a prior conviction for a serious drug or violent felony.

Aggravating Role in the Offense

Those who played an organizing or leadership role in a drug trafficking organization face sentencing enhancements under the guidelines. Defendants who qualify as a “manager” or “supervisor” receive increases of 2 to 4 offense levels[5].

Being an “organizer or leader” leads to a 4-level increase. These enhancements significantly extend the sentencing range[5].

Acceptance of Responsibility

Defendants who “clearly demonstrate acceptance of responsibility” may receive decreases in their offense level under the guidelines[5]. This often requires pleading guilty in a timely manner before trial.

While not guaranteed, this 2-3 level reduction can result in a slightly lower guideline range in some cases[5].

Sentencing for Different Drug Types

To understand how steep federal drug sentences can be, it helps to look at the guideline ranges for common drug types.

Heroin Trafficking

Even small amounts of heroin can lead to years in prison under the drug quantity table[5]:

  • 100-399 grams of heroin: Base level 32 (121-151 months for Category I criminal history)
  • 400-799 grams of heroin: Base level 34 (151-188 months for Category I criminal history)
  • 800 grams-1 kilo of heroin: Base level 36 (188-235 months for Category I criminal history)

Possessing 1 kilo or more of heroin has a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years under federal law[2].

Cocaine Trafficking

Cocaine sentences are linked to the quantity of cocaine mixture involved[5]:

  • 500-1,499 grams cocaine: Base level 24 (51-63 months for Category I criminal history)
  • 1.5-4.9 kilos cocaine: Base level 30 (97-121 months for Category I criminal history)
  • 5-14.9 kilos cocaine: Base level 32 (121-151 months for Category I criminal history)

Possessing 5 kilos or more of cocaine mixture carries a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence[2].

Methamphetamine Trafficking

Meth sentences are based on the quantity of pure meth involved[5]:

  • 5-19 grams pure meth: Base level 26 (63-78 months for Category I criminal history)
  • 20-79 grams pure meth: Base level 30 (97-121 months for Category I criminal history)
  • 80-199 grams pure meth: Base level 32 (121-151 months for Category I criminal history)

Possessing 50 grams or more of pure meth triggers a 10-year mandatory minimum[2].

Sentencing Enhancements and Mandatory Minimums

Beyond the sentencing guidelines, federal law contains provisions that often lead to even longer sentences for drug crimes.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Mandatory minimums require judges to impose often harsh sentences based on the drug quantity involved, regardless of the guidelines[5]. They include:

  • 5 years for 28 grams+ of crack cocaine, 5 grams+ of meth, etc.
  • 10 years for 280 grams+ of crack, 50 grams+ of meth, etc.
  • 20 years for distribution to someone under 21 years old[5]

Mandatory life sentences can even apply to certain three-time drug offenders under the “three strikes” provision[5].

Sentencing Enhancements

Other federal laws increase sentences in certain situations[5]:

  • Distributing drugs near schools, parks, or public housing adds 1-3 years
  • Using someone under 18 years old in drug operations adds 20 years
  • Prior felony drug convictions can double mandatory minimums

Federal Drug Sentencing Has Been Controversial

Critics argue federal drug sentencing laws lead to excessive punishments that disproportionately impact minorities[6]. Some key concerns include:

  • Nonviolent drug offenders receive harsh sentences, sometimes life in prison
  • Disparities between crack and powder cocaine sentences
  • Mandatory minimums transfer sentencing power from judges to prosecutors
  • Guidelines are overly complex and rigid

In response, reforms have aimed to reduce sentences for certain drug crimes. For example, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences. But fundamental problems remain under the current federal sentencing structure according to critics.

Free Consultation


I was searching for a law firm with some power to help me deal with a warrant in New York . After 6 days I decided to go with Spodek Law Group. It helped that This law firm is well respected by not only the top law firms in New York , but the DA , Judge as well. I...

~Fonder Brandon

5 Stars
It was my good fortune to retain Spodek Law Group for representation for my legal needs. From the beginning, communication was prompt and thorough. Todd, Kenneth and Alex were the first people I worked with and they all made me, and my company Qumana skincare feel comfortable and confident that the team was going to work hard for me. Everything...

~A G

5 Stars
After meeting with several law firms, I chose the Spodek Law Group not only for their professionalism and experience, but for the personal attention given to me right from the initial consultation. It is important to recognize how crucial having the right legal team is when faced with potentially life altering events that impact families and the lives of loved...

~George Cherubini

Spodek Law Group

White Glove Service

We Provide Superior Service, Excellent Results, At A Level Superior To Other Criminal Defense Law Firms. Regardless Of Where Your Case Is, Nationwide, We Can Help You.
View More

Request Free Consultation

Please fill out the form below to receive a free consultation, we will respond to
your inquiry within 24-hours guaranteed.


85 Broad St 30th Floor, New York, NY 10004


get directions

Los Angeles

611 S Catalina St Suite 222, Los Angeles, CA 90005


get directions


35-37 36th St, 2nd Floor Astoria, NY 11106


get directions


195 Montague St., 14th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201


get directions
Call Now!