The average newspaper article about MDMA prior to 2001 frequently quoted "up to fifteen years in prison or a $125,000 fine" as the penalty for MDMA possession. This penalty has been cited repeatedly in articles about MDMA since its initial emergency scheduling in 1985. The penalties
for MDMA possession or intent to distribute are complex. No mandatory minimum sentence exists for MDMA, as it does for some other drugs, such as crack cocaine. The maximum penalties are found in the statutes, but they are rarely enforced. The actual sentence is determined by federal sentencing guidelines, which are complicated by many aggravating and mitigating factors. It is basically a point system, which takes into account the weight of the drug, the criminal history of the defendant, and whether children, pregnant women, weapons, or serious injury or death were involved. Everyone with the same amount of MDMA will not have the same sentence. Pleading guilty and avoiding a trial allows for a reduction in points, as does cooperating with the authorities in making other cases for them. Moreover, intent to distribute often can be based on the amount of drug in the defendant's possession, rather than the behavior of the defendant. With a federal arrest and prosecution, the charge of trafficking and conspiracy is more likely than with a state charge.
The new sentencing guidelines to be followed by federal judges will increase the likely prison term for the sale of 200 grams of Ecstasy from fifteen months to more than five years. Under the old guidelines, a five-year prison sentence (level 26), would involve 2,857 grams of Ecstasy, anywhere from 11,500 to 46,000 pills, based on a pill weight of 250 mg to 350 mg. Under the new amendment, offenses involving 100 grams of Ecstasy, or 400 to 1,600 pills, would meet the criteria for a level 26 offense.
Before the new sentencing guidelines, the average prison sentence for MDMA possession was thirty-three months. The new law will increase the average penalty to ten years.
Although there is a statutory maximum limit of twenty years for a first offense, there are currently no federal mandatory minimum sentences involving Ecstasy. However, there is a sentencing guideline minimum: if intent to distribute is the charge, the offense level begins at 12, so a first-time offender can spend ten to sixteen months in prison regardless of the weight seized.
In New Orleans, a local DJ and a concert hall manager face up to twenty years in prison and $500,000 in fines for staging a rave. The prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Administration involves using the federal "crack house law." Passed by Congress in 1986 to combat crack cocaine, this law was designed to punish the owners or operators of houses used for the manufacture, storage, distribution, or use of illegal drugs. At the time of publication the case was not yet settled.
MDMA is not mentioned specifically, and state prosecutions are pursued under the Controlled Substances Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986. A person convicted of possessing a personal use amount of MDMA in California faces a maximum of one year in the county jail or state prison. "Diversion" is the more likely sentence, which is drug education or rehabilitation instead of prison. Punishment for possession of MDMA with intent to distribute carries a state prison term of sixteen months or two years or three years, depending on the offense level. Diversion is not an option.
As of April 2001 the California legislature was considering a bill (AB 1416) that threatens to (1) make MDMA a Schedule I controlled substance in California, and (2) make it a crime to be "under the influence" of MDMA in California. Those convicted of being under the influence of MDMA would be punished by a mandatory minimum of ninety-days in county jail and up to a maximum of one year in jail.
A law is being proposed to increase the punishments for MDMA in this state. Possession of fifty or more doses would be considered trafficking and would receive a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of three years and a fine of $50,000. Possession of one hundred or more doses would receive a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of $100,000. Possession of five hundred doses or more would receive a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of fifteen years and a fine of $400,000.
Possession of MDMA carries a sentence of three to five years in prison, but a first-time offender could serve less than a year in county jail, regardless of the amount of drug seized.
Punishment for possession of MDMA in Texas depends on the drug weight: Less than 1 g is considered a state felony, with a mandatory minimum of 180 days in county jail, up to two years, and a fine of up to $10,000. Possession of 1 g but less than 4 g is a third-grade felony, with a mandatory two-year minimum sentence, up to ten years, and a fine of up to $10,000. Possession of 4 g but less than 400 g is a second-degree felony, with a mandatory two-year minimum sentence, up to twentyyears, and fine ofup to $10,000. Possession of 400 g or more receives a mandatory five-year minimum sentence, up to a possible life sentence.
The penalties for distribution or manufacture of MDMA or for possession with the intent to distribute are determined by weight of the MDMA seized. Less than 1 g is a state felony that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days in countyjail, up to two years, and a fine ofup to $10,000. Between 1 and 4 g is a second-degree felony with a mandatory two-year minimum, up to twenty years, and fine of up to $10,000. Between 4 g and 400 g is a first-degree felony, carrying a mandatory five-year minimum, up to possible life imprisonment and maximum $ 10,000 fine. For 400 g or more, a person gets a mandatory ten-year minimum sentence, with possible life imprisonment.
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