A 39-year-old man from San Angelo, Texas, was sentenced to life in prison following his conviction for a single count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine drugs.
The defendant had actually been convicted back in November, 2016, but had been waiting to find out his sentence—which was heavily amplified by what's known as a "notice of enhancement" to the court. The notice of enhancement basically directs the court to consider the defendant's prior criminal convictions when applying the federal sentencing guidelines. It's important to note that sentence enhancements are triggered only when the prosecutor chooses to file the notice to the court and not before.
While the defendant certainly has a criminal history, there's no particular evidence that he was a master drug kingpin deserving of a life sentence. He was one of twelve people ultimately charged and convicted under a joint indictment carried out by the Organize Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the San Angelo Police Department. The sentences handed down ranged from 15 months to life in prison.
This particular defendant's sole role seems to have been as a delivery man for the meth, which was bought by someone working at the direction of the DEA.
The life sentence is a result of two previous convictions for felony drug offenses. Under the law, if the government files notice of the convictions with the court, and the convictions are found to be valid, the Court is required to impose a life sentence. There is no leeway or consideration of any mitigating circumstances or chance of parole.
Long sentences for low-level drug runners and single counts of a crime are under criticism because they often put defendants in the cross hairs of prosecutors who will give them little choice to either accept a plea deal with a harsh sentence or go to trial and—if they lose—face an even harsher sentence.
If you're facing any sort of felony drug charges, don't hesitate—your best chance of a solid defense is consulting early with an attorney.
Source: Big Country Homepage News, "West Texas Man Sentenced to Life for Meth Distribution Ring," Feb. 23, 2017