Drug trafficking charges engender more serious treatment than possession— in North Carolina and across the United States. When a charge graduates from possession to trafficking depends upon the circumstances of arrest and other factors.
As FindLaw explains, both federal and state law treat trafficking harshly, often requiring mandatory minimum sentencing. While possession can often amount to a misdemeanor, drug trafficking is a felony.
Factors in charging and sentencing
Drug possession may turn into a trafficking charge in a few cases. Large amounts of the drug, large amounts of cash discovered during arrest or other evidence suggesting that the substance is for more than personal use all increase the likelihood of a trafficking charge.
When facing trafficking charges, certain factors may affect the severity of the consequences. These include the schedule of the substance, the location and area where the alleged offense took place and the amount of the drug. Evidence of distribution to minors can increase the severity of punishment, as can associations with criminal organizations and possession of any firearms. A court will also consider any prior offenses.
Trafficking within North Carolina borders falls under state law. If the alleged trafficking area crosses state borders, the case becomes a federal matter.
The DEA categorizes drugs into schedules based on their acceptable medical use and potential for abuse. The Controlled Substance Act Scheduling defines these on a scale of one to five — one being the highest potential for abuse and five being the lowest. Drug scheduling is one of the primary factors considered in sentencing, with many offenses containing mandatory minimum sentences based on schedules.