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Drug Kingpins May Now Face the Death Penalty

By Ceylan Pumphrey, Esq. on March 23, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Drugs have been a problem in the United States for decades, but it seems that somehow it's become even more widespread -- maybe because of the increased use of opioids. So, it's not surprising that the government is trying to step up in finding solutions to end this crisis. One way the current administration has decided to address the drug crisis is to seek harsher sentences for drug dealer and kingpins.

Considering President Trump's comments backing the idea of the death penalty for drug dealers, it's no surprise that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued a memo along similar lines. More specifically, Sessions' memo directs federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty "in appropriate cases" when it comes to drug-related crimes. In his memo, Sessions noted that over 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016, and for this reason "business as usual" cannot continue.

Laws Authorizing the Death Penalty

There are various instances in which a defendant can be sentenced to death under federal law. Some of these statutes specifically address drug-related crimes, such as 18 U.S.C. section 3591(b)(1), which authorizes the death penalty for people who deal in extremely large quantities of drugs. This statute was one of four laws that Sessions cited in his memo as authorizing federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

The other statutes listed by Sessions included murder in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise, murder in a racketeering offense, and a murder committed by the use of a gun during a drug-trafficking crime. Sessions' memo makes it clear that the target for harsher punishments are "drug traffickers, transnational criminal organizations, and violent street gangs."

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