The North Carolina First Step Act was signed in to law this year, and it offers new hope for some people who have a prior felony conviction on their records for drug trafficking or conspiracy to drug traffic.

What does the First Step Act do? Essentially, it gives the court some wiggle room when it comes to the mandatory minimum sentences that courts have previously been required to impose. This is particularly important when you realize that people can be charged with drug trafficking or the intent to traffic drugs based only on the amount of drugs found in their possession — and this policy tends to disproportionately affect addicts and people of color.

Under the First Step Act, defendants serving a mandatory minimum sentence would be able to ask the court to reduce their sentence at any point so long as they meet certain requirements. Some of those requirements include:

  • You accept responsibility for your actions.
  • You don’t have a prior felony conviction that would bar your participation in the First Step Act.
  • You were not convicted of violence or the use of firearms in connection with drug trafficking.
  • You had a substance abuse disorder and have now successfully completed treatment for the condition.
  • You provided reasonable assistance to the authorities when it came to identifying and convicting any of your accomplices or co-conspirators.

Naturally, a reduced sentence isn’t automatic. Prosecutors can object to a sentence modification (and usually will). That’s why it’s smart to have an experienced defense attorney on your side throughout the process. If you or someone you love has been convicted of drug trafficking, find out more about your options for relief.