Drug Trafficking Has Nothing to Do with Intent

If you look up the definition of trafficking, you will find that it means to “buy and sell” and “do business.” Knowing that, it would be understandable if you think that a drug trafficking charge would only be applied in cases where the defendant intends to sell the drug. But you’d be wrong.

Drug trafficking in North Carolina and other states is not related to intent. You can be charged with the crime even if the drugs are only for personal use. What makes a possession charge become an elevated trafficking charge is how much is in your possession.

Amount Leading to Trafficking Charges

Possession of a scheduled controlled substance or narcotic could lead to a drug trafficking charge. North Carolina drug statutes outline how much of any drug would bring the elevated charge.

The following amounts constitute drug trafficking in the Tar Heel State:

  • Marijuana: 10 pounds
  • Methaqualone: 1,000 doses
  • Cocaine: 28 grams
  • Methamphetamine: 28 grams
  • Amphetamine: 28 grams
  • Opium/Heroin: 4 grams
  • LSD: 100 units
  • MDA/MDMA: 100 units
  • MDPV: 28 grams
  • Mephedrone: 28 grams
  • Synthetic Cannabinoids: 50 doses

Mandatory Penalties for Trafficking

Trafficking penalties increase exponentially the more drugs you have. For example, if you have 10 pounds of marijuana (Schedule VI drug), you are facing at least 25 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Using marijuana as an example, it is easy to see how penalties become increasingly severe:

  • 50 to 1,999 pounds: 35 months in prison and a $25,000 fine
  • 2,000 to 9,999 pounds: 70 months in prison and a $50,000 fine
  • 10,000 or more pounds: 175 months in prison and a $200,000 fine

Opium or heroin (Schedule I drug) has the most severe penalties:

  • 4 to 13 grams: 70 months in prison and a $50,000 fine
  • 14 to 27 grams. 90 months in prison and a $100,000 fine
  • 28 or more grams: 225 months in prison and a $500,000 fine

North Carolina has some of the stiffest drug penalties in the United States. The minimum sentences listed above are mandatory with few exceptions. If you face drug trafficking or other drug crime charges, contact an experienced attorney right away.

First Step Act

Prior to the First Step Act (effective Dec. 1, 2020), judges had no flexibility in sentencing defendants. Additionally, prosecutors could not offer a plea deal that conflicted with the minimum guidelines established in the state code.

The First Step Act now gives judges flexibility if defendants meet all the criteria:

  • The defendant has accepted responsibility for the crime
  • The defendant does not have a prior felony drug conviction under G.S. 90-95
  • The defendant did not use violence, threats of violence, or possess a firearm or a weapon in the commission of the offense they’re currently being sentenced for
  • The defendant did not use violence, threats of violence, or possess a firearm or a weapon
  • in the commission of any other crime, no matter when that crime was committed
  • The defendant has admitted they have a substance abuse disorder
  • The defendant has already successfully completed a court-approved drug treatment program
  • Imposing the mandatory minimum would result in substantial injustice
  • Imposing the mandatory minimum is not necessary for public safety
  • The defendant is being sentenced solely for trafficking, or conspiracy to commit trafficking as a result of possession
  • There is no substantial evidence that the defendant has ever, at any time, engaged in the sale, manufacture, delivery, or transport of a controlled substance or intent to sell, manufacture, deliver, or transport a controlled substance
  • The defendant has provided all reasonable assistance in the identification, arrest, or conviction of any accomplices, accessories, co-conspirators, or principals
  • The defendant is being sentenced for trafficking or conspiracy to commit trafficking for possession (not sale, manufacture, delivery, transport, etc.) of the drug amount that is within the lowest category under G.S. 90-95(h)

Qualifying inmates who received mandatory prison sentences can file a Motion for Appropriate Relief (MAR) with the court. After the submission of the motion, North Carolina judges will now have the discretion to reduce their sentences. Inmates only have 36 months from the Dec. 1, 2020, effective date to petition the court.

Bring Experience to Your Drug Case

The long list for eligibility under the First Step Act underscores the importance of having an attorney with extensive experience in defending against charge charges. Mitigating factors like unlawful search and seizure or your consent to search was under duress can potentially be grounds for getting charges dismissed.

Our skilled lawyers at Jetton & Meredith, PLLC have extensive experience in complex criminal law. We understand the high stakes and will fight aggressively on your behalf.

If you are facing drug charges in Charlotte or the surrounding area, schedule a consultation by calling (704) 931-5535. You can also contact us through our online form.