Many schedule IV controlled substances are prescribed as sleeping aids and as anti-anxiety medications. They include diazepam (marketed as Valium®), temazepam (marketed as Restoril®), lorazepam (marketed as Ativan®), and alprazolam (marketed as Xanax®). While these drugs can be abused, they are typically a lower priority for federal law enforcement than cases involving Schedule I or Schedule II drugs. Significant trafficking of a Schedule IV drug might nevertheless result in a federal prosecution.

One schedule IV drug — flunitrazepam — is subject to harsher penalties than the others. Flunitrazepam, also known as Rohypnol or “roofies,” has been publicized as the “date rape drug.” It induces sleep as well as a degree of amnesia. Although studies show that flunitrazepam is rarely used to facilitate a sexual assault, the widespread publicity it has received persuaded Congress to impose harsher penalties for the distribution of flunitrazepam than it imposes on chemically similar Schedule IV drugs.

Penalties

All Schedule IV drugs except flunitrazepam

A federal sentence for distributing (or possessing with intent to distribute) a Schedule IV drug (other than flunitrazepam), or for a conspiracy to do so, depends upon whether the defendant has a prior drug conviction under state or federal law.

  • First offense:  Maximum sentence of 5 years.
  • Second or subsequent offense: Maximum sentence of 10 years.

Flunitrazepam

A federal sentence for distributing (or possessing with intent to distribute) flunitrazepam, or for a conspiracy to do so, depends upon the quantity of the drug and whether the defendant has a prior drug conviction under state or federal law. If the offense involves 1 gram or more, the sentence also depends upon whether a serious injury or death resulted from use of the distributed drug. If the offense involves less than a gram, the penalty range is the same as it is for other Schedule IV drugs.

  • Less than 1 gram:
  • First offense:  Maximum sentence of 5 years.
  • Second or subsequent offense:  Maximum sentence of 10 years.
  • 1 gram or more (no injury):
  • First offense:  Maximum sentence of 20 years.
  • Second or subsequent offense:  Maximum sentence of 30 years.
  • 1 gram or more (serious injury or death):
  • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
  • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of life.

The maximum penalties described above may increase substantially and different mandatory minimum penalties may apply if:

  • the drug was distributed to a person under the age of 21;
  • the drug was distributed to a pregnant woman;
  • minors were employed to assist in the commission of the offense; or
  • distribution occurred near a protected area.

In addition to a potential prison sentence, fines and costs can be imposed, as well as a term of supervised release.

Penalties (simple possession)

Simple possession is the term used to describe possession of a drug for personal use, not with the intent to distribute the drug to others. The range of sentences available for simple possession of a Schedule IV drug (other than flunitrazepam) depends upon whether the defendant has a prior conviction for a drug offense under state or federal law.

All Schedule IV drugs except flunitrazepam

  • First offense:  Maximum sentence of 1 year.
  • Second offense:  Minimum sentence of 15 days, maximum of 2 years.
  • Third or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of 90 days, maximum of 3 years.

Flunitrazepam

Regardless of whether a defendant has a prior drug conviction, the maximum sentence for simple possession of flunitrazepam is 3 years.