One of the frustrations in preparing a strong criminal defense for federal drug charges can be the intersection between state and federal laws. If the latter are invoked, federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines may result in much higher penalties.
Some criminal justice advocates have questioned whether those guidelines offer enough flexibility to judges to tailor sentences to individual defendants' circumstances. Other commentators have noted inconsistencies in the guidelines between the incarceration terms recommended for crack versus powder cocaine, with a potentially racially disparate impact. Congress acted in 2010 to reduce that discrepancy, but concerns over the seemingly punitive nature of federal drug sentencing guidelines have remained.