When people hear the term “drug trafficking,” they often believe it relates to massive amounts of illegal drugs in warehouses, combined with evidence they are being sold or transported. However, under North Carolina law (NCGS § 90-95), the amount needed to constitute drug trafficking in Charlotte, or anywhere in the state is probably much less than you expect, and there doesn’t need to be any direct evidence of distribution. Essentially, drug trafficking charges are based entirely on the weight of the drug found. The consequences of a drug trafficking conviction are extremely harsh. With mandatory minimum prison sentences involved, this level of offense should only be handled by a highly-skilled and knowledgeable Charlotte drug trafficking lawyer.
With over 35 years of experience and an impressive history of securing favorable outcomes for our clients, the Charlotte drug lawyers with Randall & Stump, PLLC know what you’re going through. We also realize that in many cases, the circumstances surrounding a drug trafficking charge are more complicated than it appears. We are prepared to listen to your story and use every available resource under the law to fight the case, obtain a dismissal, or reduce the possible penalties, so you don’t suffer unnecessarily.
Let our drug trafficking lawyers work tirelessly to protect you. The first step is calling (980) 237-4579 or submitting a request using our online contact form to schedule a free, confidential case consultation with an aggressive Charlotte criminal defense lawyer.
Drug Trafficking in Charlotte, NC
Drug trafficking in Charlotte follows the North Carolina statute, which establishes the core element of the crime as drug possession. This means that law enforcement does not have to prove your intention to sell, distribute, or transport the drugs in question. Simply having the predetermined quantity is enough to substantiate the charge. The logic behind this approach is that the drugs’ exact purpose become irrelevant because by possessing substantial quantities, your intent can be inferred. For example, if the police find 10 pounds or more of marijuana, nothing needs to be divvied up, and the police don’t need to see scales or baggies in close proximity, in order to charge you with trafficking in marijuana.
While the amount of drugs is all that’s required for a drug trafficking charge, and prosecutors have no obligation to prove what you were planning to do with the drugs, that does not mean you won’t face additional charges for the same drugs. This is often seen in situations where officers find a trafficable amount in your possession in your vehicle. If the officers have evidence that you were in your way to a drug sale, they may allege that you were trafficking by possession for having the drugs and also trafficking by transportation since you were in to process of driving the drugs to a location for sale. This essentially means you can face mandatory time in custody for each separate charge, even though the quantity of drugs remained the same.
Charlotte, NC Drug Trafficking Charges & Drug Trafficking Consequences
As previously discussed, the laws against drug trafficking in Charlotte and the potential penalties are based on the amount in question, but the type of drug is also an important factor. In Charlotte and across the state, the most commonly trafficked drugs are marijuana, powdered and crack cocaine, prescription pills, heroin, and in light of the opioid epidemic, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl are now seen with alarming regularity.
Marijuana Drug Trafficking
- Possessing 10 to 49 pounds of marijuana is a Class H felony and carries penalties between 25 and 39 months of imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
- Possessing between 50 and 1,999 pounds of marijuana is a Class G felony and carries penalties of 35 to 51 months in prison and a $25,000 fine.
- Possessing between 2,000 and 9,999 pounds of marijuana is a Class F felony and will result in between 70 and 93 months in prison and a $50,000 fine.
- Possession of 10,000 pounds or more of marijuana is a Class D felony and carries penalties between 175 to 222 months in prison and a $200,000 fine.
Cocaine Drug Trafficking
- Between 28 and 199 grams is a Class G felony, and carries penalties of 35 to 51 months in prison and a $50,000 fine.
- Between 200 and 399 grams is a Class F felony, and carries penalties of 70 to 93 months in prison and a $100,000 fine.
- Over 400 grams of cocaine is a Class D felony and carries penalties of 175 to 222 months in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Heroin & Opioid Drug Trafficking
- Between four and 13 grams of heroin is a Class F felony and carries penalties of 70 to 93 months in prison and a $50,000 fine.
- Between 14 and 27grams is a Class E felony and carries penalties of 90 to 120 months in prison and a $100,000 fine.
- Over 28 grams of heroin is a Class C felony and carries penalties of 225 to 282 months in prison and a $500,000 fine.
In North Carolina, heroin and opioids fall under the highest penalty range when it comes to trafficking. This means that a relatively low quantity can still result in a drug trafficking charge. Additionally, when someone is found with opioid pills, such as Oxycodone, the weight of the entire tablet will be used, rather than the dosage of opioids. Therefore, if someone possesses several 30-milligram pills, it can quickly meet the four-gram minimum for heroin trafficking.
It is also important to keep in mind that often, drugs like heroin and cocaine contain filler agents and mixers. In Mecklenburg County and throughout North Carolina, this will not be a consideration or mitigating factor in determining the total weight in your possession. If you are charged with trafficking in 14 grams of heroin, it won’t matter if the drugs aren’t technically 100 percent pure heroin. You will still face the penalties associated with a Class E felony for drug trafficking.
At Randall & Stump, PLLC, we know the devastating impact a drug conviction can have on your permanent record, especially if you have no prior criminal history. And with mandatory minimum prison sentences attached to a conviction, even a first offense drug trafficking charge in Charlotte needs to be taken seriously and addressed by veteran drug trafficking lawyers.
When Does Drug Trafficking in NC Become Federal?
In some instances, drug trafficking in North Carolina can be pursued at the federal level. This happens for a variety of reasons, but usually involve cases investigated by federal agents or picked up by federal prosecutors due to the amount of drugs, who is involved or implicated in the trafficking, if the drugs crossed state lines, and other appealing circumstances for a federal case. Sometimes, the same drug trafficking charge can even be prosecuted by both state and federal authorities independently.
Whether or not your trafficking case is considered federal matters a great deal. In federal court, the punishments for drug crimes are typically very harsh, and there is no parole available in the federal system. Also, federal drug charges hanging over your head can significantly complicate your state drug trafficking case. If your state case is taken over by federal prosecutors, it is wise to consult a drug trafficking lawyer with experience in both systems. This can prevent costly delays and the need to hire a separate attorney down the line.
As Charlotte federal criminal defense attorneys, Randall & Stump, PLLC knows how these types of cases operate, how to deal with federal prosecutors, and what it takes to secure the best possible result in federal or state court.
Possible Defense Options & How to Beat a Drug Trafficking Charge
A trafficking controlled substances arrest in Charlotte or anywhere in the state usually catches people off guard because many people are not aware that possession alone is enough to be charged with drug trafficking. The system may seem stacked against you, and with the mandatory prison sentences attached to a conviction it is important to remember that no situation is beyond repair. By working with a knowledgeable and committed drug trafficking defense lawyer, you can face the case head on, knowing that everything that can be done is being pursued.
Attack the Search and How the Drugs Were Found
When law enforcement executes a search of your person or property, they must usually establish probable cause relating to criminal activity unless you consented, the illicit items were in plain view, or other exigent circumstances apply. In drug trafficking cases, how the police became aware of your activity becomes very important. If the police acquired a warrant based on misleading information, did not have sufficient ground to pull you over, or illegally extended the traffic stop and found 10 pounds of marijuana, a skilled lawyer might be able to have the evidence based on this improper search excluded.
Analyze the Lab Reports & Weights Determined
In a drug trafficking case, a lot rests on the quantity in question. This can seem arbitrary, but how the evidence is collected, labeled, weighed, and tested becomes critical to the charges levied against you. Sometimes, police weigh drugs in containers at the scene that drastically overvalue the amount. Lab tests also sometimes misidentify substances as illicit. You should have a lawyer on your side, who can review these reports and custody chain documents to uncover any mistakes. This could mean the difference between drug trafficking and the less severe penalties for simple possession.
Were the Drugs Actually In Your Possession?
This defense strategy is typically seen in circumstances where you can demonstrate a genuine lack of knowledge the drugs were present. Common examples of this would be if you borrowed someone’s car without knowing there were drugs in the trunk, if someone concealed drugs on your property without your knowledge, or you were merely at the wrong place at the wrong time when drugs were recovered.
Our mission in any drug trafficking case will be to obtain the best possible result. A skilled drug trafficking lawyer can evaluate the evidence, exploit any flaws in the prosecutor’s case, and explore every option that lets you move on with your life. This can include negotiating for a dismissal based on faulty evidence, arrange for a mitigated sentence, or present your case at trial and tell your side of the story.