Federal criminal law can be quite complex. Often, a criminal charge can become much more severe if certain elements are present. If you are facing federal charges for drug trafficking or another federal drug felony, here is how using, carrying or possessing a gun can make the charges against you much higher.
Using firearms in furtherance of a drug crime
When the police arrest someone for trafficking drugs, and the person had firearms in their possession that they used or intended to use to further the drug crime, they can face increased jail time. The severity of the increased penalties depends upon the circumstances of the crime.
For example, under 18 US Code Section 924, if you carry a firearm while committing a drug trafficking crime, it can add at least five years to your sentence upon conviction. You will have to serve these five years after any jail time resulting from the drug trafficking crime, not at the same time.
If you brandish the firearm during the commission of the drug trafficking crime, the added sentence increases to seven years or more. If you fire the gun, the sentence increases to at least 10 years, even if you do not kill anyone.
The type of firearm matters
The added penalty does not only increase based on what you do with the gun during the commission of the crime. There are added penalties based on the type of gun you possess as well.
If the gun you have is a short-barreled rife, short-barreled shotgun, or semiautomatic rifle, then the added sentence will be a minimum of 10 years, regardless of whether you brandished or fired the weapon or not.
If your gun is a machine gun, the penalty will be at least 30 years. The same penalty applies if you use a silencer or muffler on your weapon, or if you have explosives on you.
Facing federal drug trafficking charges is no laughing matter. It can be good to understand the types of factors that can make the charges against you more serious, so that you can know what to expect in your trial and plan accordingly.