Maintaining Drug Involved Premises is a federal criminal charge that is codified in 21 U.S. Code Section 856. This is commonly called “the crackhouse” statute because it was passed by Congress in 1986 as part of Anti-Drug Abuse Act in an effort to battle the crack epidemic. The main purpose of this statute, as explained in its’ legislative history is to outlaw “operation of houses or buildings, so-called ‘crack-houses,’ where crack,’ cocaine and other drugs are manufactured or used.”

Under the Maintaining Drug Involves Premises charge, it is a crime to knowingly manage, control, lease, rent or maintain a place for the purposes of manufacturing, distributing or using any controlled substance. It is important to retain the right lawyer for your case, as this charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and can result in a fine up to $500,000 for an individual and $2,000,000 for a corporation.

Maintaining Drug Involved Premises Charge Explained

Under 21 U.S.C. Section 856, a person is guilty of Maintaining Drug Involved Premises, when s/he:

  1. Knowingly opens, leases, rents, uses or maintains any place (whether permanently or temporarily) for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing or using any controlled substance, OR
  2. Manages or controls any place, (whether permanently or temporarily), as an owner, lessee, agent, employee, occupant, or mortgagee, AND knowingly and intentionally rents, leases, profits from or makes available for use, with or without compensation, the place for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, distributing or using a controlled substance.

The difference between these two provisions is that 21 U.S.C. 856(1) targets those who open or maintain a place for their own purpose of manufacturing, distributing or using drugs, while 21 U.S.C. 856(2) is designed those who knowingly allow others to maintain or use their premises for use, manufacturing or distribution of controlled substances. The legislative history distinguishes between these charges by calling 21 U.S.C. 856(1), the “Actor Statute” and 21 U.S.C. 856(2), the “Operator” statute.

Criminal Penalties for Maintaining Drug Involved Premises

Maintaining Drug Involved Premises is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The exact sentence depends on U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and 3553(a) factors. This charge is also punishable by a fine up to $500,000 for an individual, and up to $2,000,000 for a person other than an individual i.e. a corporation.

Civil Penalties for Maintaining Drug Involved Premises

In addition to criminal penalties, Maintaining Drug Involved Premises is punishable by civil penalties, which are the greater of:

  • $250,000, OR
  • Twice the gross receipts, actual or estimated, that were derived from each violation of the statute.

In the event the civil penalties are calculated using the gross receipts method and there are multiple defendants or violations, the Court may apportion the penalty between multiple violators, but each will be jointly and severally liable. That means that even if the penalties are apportioned, you are still required to pay the entire amount if your co-defendant’s don’t mane any payments.

Potential Defenses to Maintaining Drug Involved Premises

Each case is different and requires extensive analysis of all the evidence against you prior to the development of a defense theory. However, some common defenses to Maintaining Drug Involved Premises are:

  • Challenging the search of the premises;
  • Establishing lack of knowledge;
  • Showing that drug diminution was incidental or collateral use of the premises.
  • Proving insufficient ties between client and the drug involved premises.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Maintaining Drug Involved Premises

1. What is the Statute of Limitations for Maintaining a Drug Involved Premises?

21 U.S.C. 856 is subject to a 5 year statute of limitations. Importantly, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the conduct is complete. That is, if someone rents a house for the purposes of manufacturing a controlled substance from 2016 to January 1, 2020, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until 2020. In this hypothetical example, the individual can be prosecuted for violating 21 U.S.C. 856 until January 1, 2025.

2. Are there any sentencing enhancements which apply to Maintaining Drug Involved Premises?

In some situations, rather than charge a violation of 21 U.S.C. 856 as a separate offense, a two-level sentencing enhancement for maintaining a drug-related premises can apply. This enhancement is contained in U.S.S.G. Section 2D1.1(b)(12).

The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines explain that a factual determination must be made about whether individual is subject to this enhancement. Importantly, among other factors, the Courts must consider:

  • Whether the defendant held a possessory interest in (e.g., owned or rented) the premises, AND
  • The extent to which the defendant controlled access to, or activities at, the premises. 

3. Does a conviction for Maintaining a Drug Involved Premises require that I use the location exclusively for a drug-related purpose?

Federal law does not require that you use or maintain the house, apartment or another premises solely for a drug-related cursor. Rather, a drug-related purpose must be one of the primary or principal uses for the premises, not an incidental one. In deciding whether a premises was maintained for a drug purpose, the Courts are required to consider how frequently the premises were used by the Defendant for:

  • Manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance, AND
  • Lawful Purposes.

4. What Are Some Examples of Cases Where the Court Held That the Premises Were Used for a Drug Purpose?

Application note n. 17 to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines explains that manufacturing or distributing drugs need not be the sole purpose for which the premises are maintained, but must be one of the primary or principal uses of the premises.

In the following cases, the Court determined that the Defendant used the premises for a drug-related purpose:

  • House used for drug-trafficking activities, even though it was also the Defendant’s family’s home (United States v. Miller, 698 F.3d 699, 707 (8th Cir. 2012));
  • Maintaining at least one room in the home for the purpose of storing marihuana for subsequent distribution later (United States v. Johnson, 737 F.3d 444, 447–48 (6th Cir. 2013));
  • Exercising control over a stash house, and operating a drug business out of it, even though Defendant did not own or reside at the location. (United States v. Renteria-Saldana, 755 F.3d 856, 859 (8th Cir. 2014)).
  • Operating a marihuana cultivation operation out of home. (United States v. Garcia, 405 F.3d 1260 (11th Cir. 2005).

Contact Top Rated Federal Drug Lawyers

If you or your loved one have been charged with Maintaining Drug Involves Premises or any federal drug charges, you need experienced counsel. These types of government investigations take months, if not years to complete. Thus, by the time you find out that you are under investigation, the Government has a significant advantage over you. You need an attorney with extensive experience handling these federal drug cases who will dedicate all the time necessary to reviewing your case and developing a defense.

We have handled numerous federal drug cases, including: narcotics distributions, conspiracies, overdose death, continuing criminal enterprises, homicides relating to the narcotics operations, pill mills, misbranding of controlled substances. Please call us at 212-729-9494 or contact us today to schedule your appointment.