Friday, June 10, 2011

Supreme Court Finds Federal Minimum Sentences for Cocaine Apply to All Forms of Base Cocaine

The Supreme Court decided (9-0) yesterday that the statutory minimum guidelines for cocaine base include all forms of cocaine base, not just what is known as crack cocaine. 
(Photo courtesy of Meli.)

Federal law sets a minimum 10-year sentence for persons convicted of certain drug offenses, 21 U. S. C. §841(a), including those involving 50 grams or more of  “a mixture or substance . . . which contains cocaine base,” §841(b)(1)(A)(iii), and a minimum 5-year sentence for offenses  involving  5  grams  or  more  of  the  same, §841(b)(1)(B)(iii).
We hold that the term “cocaine base” as used in §841(b)(1) means not  just “crack  cocaine,” but cocaine in its chemically basic form.  
In this case, out of the First Circuit, DePierre attempted to distinguish crack cocaine from other types of base cocaine and argued that the federal minimum guidelines only applied to crack. The Supreme Court rejected that argument finding that the mandatory minimums apply to all forms of base cocaine.

The decision does not mean that powder cocaine is covered by these mandatory guidelines as the powder form of cocaine was not contemplated to be included by congress and is a different chemical form of cocaine from base cocaine.

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