Drug Trafficking in North Carolina: What You Need to Know
What is drug trafficking? Drug trafficking is the sale, transportation, or possession of drugs with the intent to distribute them. Trafficking is distinguished from “possession with intent to sell and deliver” based on the quantity of drug in your possession. Trafficking drugs can carry severe penalties, including mandatory minimum sentences in some cases. Let’s look at what drug trafficking is and what kind of penalties you may face if convicted. And we will explore new laws related to trafficking penalties in NC.
Whether you intend to sell the substance or not is irrelevant if law enforcement catches you with a large amount of an illegal substance. Because the amount matters, you can face charges for trafficking if you possess:
- 28 grams or more of cocaine, MDPV, methamphetamine, or amphetamine
- 4 grams or more of opium or heroin
- 100 or more doses of LSD or MDA/ MDMA
- 50 or more doses of synthetic cannabinoid
- 10 lbs or more of marijuana
Recent news shows that a record number of drug trafficking investigations involving fentanyl occurred in 2021. In one North Carolina county alone, law enforcement seized 39 pounds of methamphetamine and 6.2 pounds of opioids, record amounts for that county. (1)
Drug Trafficking Penalties in North Carolina
Marijuana Trafficking Penalties
- 10 lbs or more is a Class H felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 months and a $5,000 fine
- 50–1,999 lbs is a Class G felony with 35 months minimum sentencing and a $25,000 fine
- 2,000–9,999 lbs is a Class F felony with 70 months minimum sentencing and a $55,000 fine
- 10,000 or more lbs is a Class D felony with 175 months minimum sentencing and a $200,000 fine
Cocaine Trafficking Penalties
- 28–199 grams is a Class G felony with 35 months minimum sentencing and a $50,000 fine
- 200–399 grams is a Class F felony with 70 months minimum sentencing and a $100,000 fine
- 400 or more grams is a Class D felony with 175 months minimum sentencing and a $250,000 fine
Methamphetamine Trafficking Penalties
- 28-199 grams is a Class F felony with 70 months minimum sentencing and a $50,000 fine
Opium or Heroin
- 4-13 grams is a Class F felony with 70 months minimum sentencing and a $50,000 fine
- 14-27 grams is a Class E felony with 90 months minimum sentencing and a $100,000 fine
Synthetic Cannabinoids Trafficking
- 50–249 dosages is a Class H felony with 25 months minimum sentencing and a $5,000 fine
- 250–1,249 dosages is a Class G felony with 35 months minimum sentencing and a $25,000 fine
- 1,250–3,749 dosages is a Class F felony with 70 months minimum sentencing and a $50,000 fine
As you can see, the penalties for drug trafficking are severe. So, if you face charges for trafficking drugs in North Carolina, it is essential to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you navigate the legal system and fight for your rights.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences in NC
Under NC G.S. 90-95, if a court convicts you of drug trafficking, you may face mandatory minimum sentences ranging from 25 to 225 months depending on drug type and drug weight.
Mandatory minimum sentences:
- Are ineligible for parole
- Don’t run concurrently with other sentences
- Are ineligible for probation
- Do not qualify for suspension of sentence
If you sell, manufacture, deliver, or possess the specified weight of a drug or law enforcement can prove criminal conspiracy charges, you face mandatory minimum sentences. (2)
First Step Act
When you’re charged with trafficking, it’s essential to avoid mandatory minimum compulsory sentencing. Because of this,you need a criminal defense attorney who fully understands how to investigate and mitigate your case.
There are several ways that a criminal defense attorney can work to mitigate your case with the prosecutor or contest it on legal grounds. In addition, it’s important to hire an attorney familiar with the latest laws in this area. A new law in 2020 gives a select few a higher chance of a lesser sentence. Additionally, to be eligible for the new “First Step Act” laws, you must meet 11 criteria.
If you meet the criteria, the judge may give lesser penalties for trafficking if you meet the following 11 conditions.
- You are sentenced solely for trafficking or conspiracy to traffic by possession (trafficking by manufacturing, delivery, and transport are not eligible)
- You must not have prior felony drug possession, sale, trafficking, or PWISD convictions.
- Trafficking is for possession of the lowest amount trafficking category for the controlled substance you possess.
- You did not use violence while violating the law in other areas.
- You did not possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon while violating the law in other areas.
- There must be no substantial evidence that you ever engaged in the sale, transport for sale, manufacture, or delivery of a controlled substance.
- You must not have used violence, a firearm, or other dangerous weapon to commit the trafficking offense.
- You must accept responsibility for your conduct.
- The court must find that the otherwise mandatory sentence would result in substantial injustice and that a mandatory minimum sentence is not needed to protect the public.
- You must also admit that you have a substance abuse disorder and successfully complete a court-approved treatment program to address it.
- You must provide reasonable assistance in the identification, arrest, or conviction of any accomplices, accessories, co-conspirators, or principals. (2)
We Can Help
At Scharff Law, we look at all the circumstances surrounding your arrest and charges to protect your rights and look for the best defense for your actions. We understand what is at stake and will work tirelessly to get the best possible outcome for your case. Call us today for a free consultation.