Aggravating Factors in a Drug Crimes Case
North Carolina’s sentencing laws are complex and it can be difficult for non-lawyers to understand exactly what penalties they are facing. When it comes to drug charges, you could be facing years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. It is critical to know which factors in your case may lead to an enhanced sentence.
If you’ve been charged with a drug crime, the defense attorneys at Randall & Stump, PLLC can help you navigate the criminal justice system and get a fair result. We work with people facing both state and federal drug crimes in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. We have the experience and knowledge you need to level the playing field. Call us at (980) 237-4579 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case today.
Felony vs. Misdemeanor Drug Charges
The first factor that will determine your punishment is whether you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges. Strictly speaking, these are classifications of crimes, and not necessarily aggravating factors. However, the type of charges you face will determine which aggravating factors will be considered and the severity of the resulting penalty.
Generally speaking, misdemeanor crimes are those that involve 12 months or less in county jail. Felonies, on the other hand, typically carry a year or more in state prison.
The North Carolina Schedule of Controlled Substances
Another factor that will determine the severity of your punishment is what drugs were involved in your charges. North Carolina categorizes drugs according to a schedule, with six categories of controlled substances. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous, with no accepted medical use. The categories are then considered decreasingly dangerous with Schedule VI being considered the least dangerous controlled substances. Schedule I drugs will carry the harshest penalties and are automatic felonies.
Your Criminal Record
Your criminal record will also affect your punishment. If you have prior drug convictions for either possession or trafficking, the penalties you face will be more severe.
Were You Involved in Drug Trafficking?
Aggravating Factors in Felony Cases
In addition to the factors discussed above, North Carolina law expressly sets forth the following aggravating factors that could affect your drug charges:
- You persuaded or coerced others to participate in the crime.
- Your offense was in connection with your membership in a criminal gang or other group.
- You were hired or paid to commit the offense.
- Your offense caused injury to a law enforcement officer or other public servant.
- You were an elected official or other public officer and your offense involved your employment.
- You used a deadly weapon in committing the offense.
- You committed the offense while on probation or pretrial release for another charge.
- You involved someone else in the crime who was under the age of 16.
- Your crime was witnessed or could have been witnessed by someone under the age of 18.
- Your crime involved an unusually large amount of drugs.
- You sold drugs to a minor.
- You made meth in a place where someone a person under the age of 18 lives.
- You made meth in a place that was a part of a multi-family residence.
- You do not support your family.
- You have prior juvenile adjudications that would be felonies if committed by an adult.
It’s important to note that the judge will decide whether these aggravating factors are present, not the jury. Furthermore, the existence of these aggravating factors need not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Contact a Charlotte Drug Defense Lawyer if You’re Facing Charges
Don’t let the prosecution persuade you that you’re guilty or that you should accept their plea bargain to avoid years in prison. You should at least talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand your options. The lawyers at Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys can help you face your charges and get a fair result. Contact us at (980) 237-4579 to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you.