Federal mandatory minimum sentences and federal sentencing guidelines were enacted in the later 1980s and early 1990s as a way to ensure that individuals convicted of the same federal crime were given similar sentences. While mandatory minimum sentences and sentencing guidelines sound very similar to each other, they are different in that:

  • Federal mandatory minimums specifically apply to drug crimes while federal sentencing guidelines can apply to a range of federal crimes.
  • Federal mandatory minimums set forth the least amount of prison time that must be doled out for a conviction while federal sentencing guidelines provide a range of possible prison time that can be sentenced, depending on the circumstances of the case.
  • Federal mandatory minimums trump federal sentencing guidelines, which means that, if there are a mandatory minimum sentence and sentencing guidelines for a specific crime, the judge must use the mandatory minimum when determining the sentence in the given case.

The following table lays out some of the federal mandatory minimum sentences that are given out for specific drug crimes:


Amount Triggering 5-Yr Mandatory Minimum Prison Sentence

(without parole)

Amount Triggering 10-Yr Mandatory Minimum Prison Sentence

(without parole)


100 plants (or 100 kilos)

1,000 plants (or 1,000 kilos)


100 grams

1 kilo


28 grams

280 grams

Powder Cocaine

500 grams

5 kilos


5 grams (pure) or 50 grams (mixed)

50 grams (pure) or 500 grams (mixed)


10 grams (pure) or

100 grams (mixed)

100 grams (pure) or

1 kilo (mixed)


1 gram

10 grams

When the following factors also play a role in a given crime and resulting conviction, the following additional mandatory minimums can be added to the sentence:

  • The drug offense involved the use of a firearm – 5 years added to the sentence
  • The convicted individual possessed a firearm and had three prior felony convictions – 15 years added to the sentenced
  • The convicted individual was operating or part of a criminal enterprise – 20 years added to the sentence.

Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers

The authorities take allegations of felony crimes, particularly when they have allegedly been committed by individuals who have a criminal record or when they involve victims, extremely seriously, and these charges – even if a person is ultimately acquitted of them – can have a devastating impact on a person’s personal and professional life. If you or a loved one has been accused of any felony or misdemeanor crime in Denver, you will need an experienced defense attorney who is dedicated to defending your rights.

At the Law Office of Andres R. Guevara, our skilled Denver criminal defense lawyers are committed to providing the accused with the best possible defense and to working tirelessly to helping them resolve their case as favorably as possible. As soon as you start working with our trusted criminal defense lawyers, we will begin investigating your case, interviewing witnesses and compiling evidence to support your defense. We will also work diligently to get the prosecution’s evidence against you thrown out of court and, whenever possible, to get the charges against you reduce or potentially even dismissed entirely.

To learn more about your legal rights and receive expert advice on how to proceed with your case, contact us at (720) 379-8262.