Trafficking is one of the most serious and complex of drug crimes in the North Carolina. Because every type of controlled substance carries different charges and penalties, you should consult an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney for your specific case.
In this article, we’ll use heroin as an example to illustrate how the various charges and penalties for trafficking can play out.
While drug trafficking charges can certainly be brought against someone who has transported drugs, the definition of trafficking is not limited to just transportation. A key factor in determining whether a person can be charged with drug trafficking (as opposed to simple possession) is the amount of the controlled substance in his possession.
The North Carolina Controlled Substances Act states that a person will be charged with a felony (trafficking) if he sells, manufactures, delivers, transports, or possess a certain set amount of an illegal drug. That set amount will vary depending on the drug.
For example, a person who possesses one gram of heroin will be charged with possession. However, if that same person is caught with four grams of heroin or more, he will be charged with trafficking.
Using heroin as the example, under the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act, a person will be charged with the following felonies based on the following amounts of heroin:
- Class F felony for four grams or more (but less than 14 grams);
- Class E felony for 14 grams or more (but less than 28 grams); or
- Class C felony for 28 grams or more.
North Carolina has very specific sentencing guidelines for drug trafficking crimes. All drug trafficking offenses are felonies and will result in prison time and hefty fines. However, as we saw above, the felony class will depend on the amount of drug trafficked and the type of drug.
The penalties for the various felonies related to heroin trafficking are the following:
- Class F felony:
- Minimum prison term of 70 months; maximum prison term of 93 months
- Fine of not less than $50,000
- Class E felony:
- Minimum prison term of 90 months; maximum prison term of 120 months
- Fine of not less than $100,000
- Class C felony:
- Minimum prison term of 225 months; maximum prison term of 282 months
- Fine of not less than $500,000
There is a very specific defense in North Carolina to a drug trafficking charge. While all drug trafficking charges carry with them mandatory prison sentences, if a defendant is found to have provided “substantial assistance” to law enforcement (that is, assisting in helping the officer catch a drug trafficker or manufacturer), he may be given a reduced sentence.
Your North Carolina criminal defense attorney can assist in guiding you on this specific defense and any others that might be available to you. Attorney Cotten has served hundreds of satisfied clients through Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham Counties. Give him a call to see how he can help you build your defense.