Maximum Steroid Trafficking Sentences to Double
Congress has unanimously passed a bill (H.R. 6353, S. 980) to place strict controls on Internet pharmacies. Sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 is named for Ryan Haight, who died at 18 of a drug overdose in 2001 after he obtained Vicodin – not anabolic steroids – over the Internet. The bill was signed by President Bush on October 15, 2008, and became Public Law 110-425. Its most relevant amendments will take effect 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act (on or about April 13, 2009). The Act creates a new statute for offenses involving dispensing controlled substances by means of the Internet. The law attempts to clarify the laws regarding “rogue” online pharmacies and what constitutes a “valid prescription,” and also criminalizes certain advertising conduct in connection with such pharmacies. It also makes it easier for State Attorneys General to go after online pharmacies beyond their state borders.
However, the Act has far broader implications for steroid trafficking cases in general. Let’s look at the most significant changes.
Most importantly, the law increases the maximum sentence for selling anabolic steroids (and other schedule III drugs) from 5 years to 10 years (up to 15 years if use of the drug causes death or serious bodily injury), as follows:
…in the case of any controlled substance in schedule III, such person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than 10 years and if death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than 15 years, a fine not to exceed the greater of that authorized in accordance with the provisions of title 18, United States Code, or $500,000 if the defendant is an individual or $2,500,000 if the defendant is other than an individual, or both.
For those with a prior drug conviction, the maximum increases from 10 to 20 years (up to 30 years if use of the drug causes death or serious bodily injury), as follows:
If any person commits such a violation after a prior conviction for a felony drug offense has become final, such person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than 20 years and if death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than 30 years, a fine not to exceed the greater of twice that authorized in accordance with the provisions of title 18, United States Code, or $1,000,000 if the defendant is an individual or $5,000,000 if the defendant is other than an individual, or both.
The increases also apply to possession with intent to sell, steroid importation and exportation crimes, and to the new Internet crimes. The law also increases penalties for crimes involving Schedule IV and V drugs.
The Act suggests that the new maximum penalties themselves should not be the “sole reason” for the United States Sentencing Commission to enhance the federal sentencing guidelines, as follows:
SENTENCING GUIDELINES- The United States Sentencing Commission, in determining whether to amend, or establish new, guidelines or policy statements, to conform the Federal sentencing guidelines and policy statements to this Act and the amendments made by this Act, should not construe any change in the maximum penalty for a violation involving a controlled substance in a particular schedule as being the sole reason to amend, or establish a new, guideline or policy statement.
That being said, it seems very likely that the Commission will conduct a fact-finding process to determine what if any amendments to the guidelines are called for based on the new law. The War on Steroid Trafficking is poised to launch into a higher gear next year.