Drug trafficking refers to the crime of illegally transporting, selling or importing illicit substances across state borders. Because most states, including North Carolina, work hard to keep drugs out, the mandatory minimum jail sentences for drug trafficking are lengthy.
If you face drug trafficking charges, you may wonder what is at stake. In addition to hefty fines and monetary penalties, you face up to 225 months — or 18 years and nine months — in prison. The length of your prison term depends on the substance in question, the total weight of the drugs and whether you have prior convictions on your record. Families Against Mandatory Minimums provides a detailed overview of NC’s mandatory minimums for drug trafficking.
Mandatory minimums for commonly trafficked drugs
North Carolina recognizes as many as 12 categories of illicit drugs and up to four weight classes. The mandatory minimum sentence for the least harmful of substances and for the lowest weight class is 25 months. The longest minimum, however, is 225 months. Below are the minimums for the four most commonly trafficked drugs in the United States:
- Marijuana: Trafficking 10 to 50 pounds carries a minimum of 25 months; the minimum for 50 to 2,000 pounds is 35 months; the minimum for 2,000 to 10,000 pounds is 75 months; and the minimum for more than 10,000 pounds is 175 months
- Cocaine: Trafficking 28 to 200 grams carries a minimum of 35 months; the minimum for 200 to 400 grams is 70 months, and carrying more than 400 grams automatically results in a 175-month prison term
- Methamphetamine: Carrying between 28 and 200 grams carries a minimum of 70 months; trafficking 200 to 400 grams results in a minimum of 90 months, and the minimum for carrying 400 or more grams is 225 months
- Opiates, Opium and Heroin: Carrying 4 to 14 grams can result in a 70-month prison term; trafficking 14 to 28 grams has a minimum of 90 months, and trafficking any more than 28 grams comes with a minimum of 225 months
Ways to shorten the mandatory minimum sentence
If you receive a trafficking conviction, there is little you can do to shorten your prison sentence. However, that does not mean you cannot do anything. The state will consider reducing your prison term if you provide substantial assistance in the identification, detainment and conviction of accessories, accomplices, principals or coconspirators to the offense. In some cases, a judge may even suspend an offender’s sentence in favor of probation. In others, however, a judge may rule that a defendant provided substantial assistance but still impose the mandatory minimum prison term regardless.
If you face trafficking charges, the worst thing you can do is try to defend yourself against them. An experienced and aggressive lawyer can help you explore your options and secure the best possible verdict.