Cocaine charges are extremely serious under North Carolina law, such that all possession, sale, trafficking, manufacturing, and other criminal offenses involving cocaine are always punished as felonies. As such, you will be facing incarceration for any type of cocaine or crack cocaine-related crime. You can expect police and prosecutors to be relentless in pursuing charges against you at every stage of the criminal process. Your best defense strategy is to retain a Charlotte cocaine defense lawyer as soon as possible, so your rights remain protected from the very beginning.
Though the punishment for various cocaine offenses may seem harsh, there are many ways to potentially fight the charges. Our legal team at Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys can assist with your defense. Our years of experience representing clients in Charlotte is backed by a track record of success because of our extensive knowledge of North Carolina’s cocaine laws.
North Carolina Cocaine Laws
The North Carolina Controlled Substances Act contains all of the relevant laws regarding cocaine charges. Cocaine is listed as a schedule II drug on the state’s Schedule of Controlled Substances, which means that:
- It bears a high potential for abuse
- There is an accepted use within the medical community, but only with severe restrictions
- Abuse of cocaine may lead to significant physical and/or psychological dependence
Cocaine charges are always classified as felonies. The exact level of your offense depends on the amount of the drug and/or your alleged conduct with it.
Possession of Cocaine (Class I Felony)
You can be arrested for simple possession if you have any amount of cocaine on your person. The offense is a class I felony, so long as the amount in your possession is under 28 grams. This would result in between three and 12 months in prison.
Sale of Cocaine (Class G Felony)
A conviction for sale of cocaine would result in a class G felony and between eight and 31 months in prison.
Delivery of Cocaine (Class H Felony)
Actual delivery of cocaine would be a class H felony, which is punishable by four to 25 months in prison.
Possession with Intent to Sell or Deliver Cocaine (PWISD) (Class H Felony)
PWISD may be charged if you are caught in possession of cocaine packaged in a way indicating you intend to sell the drug, possess a large quantity of the drug, or with paraphernalia around you that indicates you were intending on selling or delivering the drug. This is a class H felony, punishable by four to 25 months in prison.
Charges related to trafficking cocaine are based solely on the weight of the drug you have in your possession, including any fillers. Depending on the person’s actions, it is not uncommon for multiple trafficking charges to be filed for the same quantity of drugs. For example, if you sold a trafficking amount of cocaine and drove it to the buyer, you could face three separate trafficking charges for possessing the cocaine, transporting the cocaine by driving it down the street, and the sale of the cocaine. As you can see below, the amount of time you would face in prison adds up quickly if you face separate trafficking charges.
There are different levels of trafficking cocaine:
- Level 1 – This involves trafficking between 28 grams and 200 grams of cocaine. This is a Class G felony and can result in a mandatory active sentence between 35 and 51 months in prison and a fine of not less than $50,000.
- Level 2 – This involves trafficking between 200 and 400 grams of cocaine. This is a Class F felony and can result in a mandatory active sentence between 70 and 93 months in prison and a fine of at least $100,000.
- Level 3 – This involves trafficking over 400 grams of cocaine. This is a class D felony and can result in a mandatory active sentence between 175 and 222 months in prison and a fine of at least $250,000.
Consequences of Cocaine Convictions
If you are facing accusations of any of the above offenses, a Charlotte cocaine lawyer can explain your charges, possible defenses, if any, and the possible punishment and fine that the court could impose upon you. However, your jail time for a cocaine-related offense is just the beginning. There are multiple collateral consequences that affect your life, including:
- You could lose your current job, especially if you possess a professional license that can be revoked for a felony conviction.
- Your future employment opportunities may be limited.
- Your criminal history will be reviewed when you apply for college, seek financial aid, request a loan, deal with child custody issues and more.
Advantages of Retaining a Charlotte Drug Lawyer for Your Defense
If you’re facing cocaine charges, it’s important to remember that an arrest does not mean you’ll be convicted. Law enforcement needs probable cause to charge you, but a prosecuting attorney must prove that you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high standard, and a cocaine defense attorney can expose weaknesses in the allegations against you.
Plus, you may have defenses when it comes time to present your own evidence. The two key defenses for cocaine charges for possession, sale and/or delivery, PWISD, and trafficking involve the weight of the drug and search tactics used by police. For instance, you could have a cocaine trafficking charge reduced to a felony possession charge if you show that the amount of the drug was less than 28 grams. Plus, your lawyer may be able to have evidence tossed out of court if law enforcement violated your constitutional rights involving an unlawful search and seizure. Without this evidence, the prosecution cannot prove selling or possession of cocaine.