The effect of a drug trafficking conviction can be particularly significant for people in North Carolina. It may not be immediately clear where the line is drawn between possession, distribution and trafficking charges. While some may think that people need to be involved in moving massive quantities of drugs or cross-border smuggling to face trafficking charges, this is not necessarily the case. Trafficking charges can relate to all types of controlled substances, from marijuana to synthetic cannabinoid products to MDMA, methamphetamine or cocaine.
People convicted of drug trafficking are not sentenced using North Carolina’s regular grid. Instead, they face higher, expanded sentences and hefty fines, even if the charge is their first conviction. Unlike other drug offenses, people convicted on trafficking charges cannot be sentenced to probation in most cases. The only exception is made for people who provided substantial assistance to the state in prosecuting other people. In addition, unless a trafficking charge is tried at the same time as other offenses, sentences must be served consecutively rather than concurrently.
Even if the trafficking never happened, conspiracy to commit drug trafficking can receive the same sentence as the completed offense. However, attempted drug trafficking sentences use the regular state grid rather than the escalated one. Providing substantial assistance leading to the arrest, prosecution or conviction of others is one way to reduce a drug trafficking sentence, but the choice to issue a reduced sentence is at the judge’s discretion.
People accused of drug trafficking charges could face lengthy jail or prison time, substantial fines and other consequences. A felony criminal record could prevent a person from accessing employment, education or housing later down the line. A criminal defense attorney can help people facing drug charges to challenge police and prosecution assertions and present a strong argument before trial and in the courtroom.