Over the past several weeks, there has been an onslaught of drug trafficking news stories in North Carolina. What does this mean for our state and for those who are currently facing drug trafficking charges?
Let’s take a look at a few of the more prominent recent cases.
- Owners of the Animal Hospital of Nags Head in eastern North Carolina – Barrett and Patrice Welch – were arrested on felony drug trafficking charges for opium and heroin. The deputies of Dare County began an investigation when allegations arose that the Welches were inappropriately prescribing, receiving, and misusing prescription medications.
- Dominique Lamar Ross of Southern Pines, North Carolina was arrested in Heflin when police discovered a half-pound of cocaine in his car. Police officers say that during a traffic stop, they noticed a “pretty overwhelming” air freshener smell in the car. When the driver didn’t consent to a search, the K9 unit was called in because they had probable cause. The officers found a gun under the driver’s seat, over $1,000 in cash, marijuana, and the cocaine behind the passenger’s side dash.
- And in a big one, 14 people, including seven current and former law enforcement officers, were convicted in a huge cocaine and heroin sting operation in Eastern North Carolina. The defendants were arrested back in April 2015 when they transported drugs and drug money for a drug trafficking organization in exchange for bribe payments. Along with pleading guilty, the defendants acknowledged that they were chosen to work with the drug trafficking organization because of their law enforcement status.
Additionally, two North Carolina suspects were arrested in South Carolina on suspicion of drug trafficking, two more men from our state were arrested on drug trafficking charges in Oklahoma, and a leader of a drug trafficking network was sentenced to 292 months in prison for bringing over one ton of marijuana to Charlotte and laundering over $1.7 million.
Now, North Carolina is no stranger to drug trafficking problems. But with all of these cases hitting at once, it’s pretty clear that both state and federal law enforcement officers are cracking down on drug trafficking here in North Carolina, as well as everywhere else.
What Does “Drug Trafficking” Really Mean?
Recently, there has been an increase of discussion about the legalization of all drugs. But until that time passes, drugs are still illegal – at least here in North Carolina – and police officers are obviously targeting traffickers.
Despite the common use of the phrase “drug trafficking,” a lot of people might think that trafficking involves the transportation of illegal drugs from one state or country to another. And while that can definitely qualify as trafficking, drug trafficking really comes down to the amount of the drugs in question.
In other words, as long as you have a certain amount of an illegal drug, you can be charged with trafficking even if you’re just in possession of it. What it comes down to is that the laws make the case that a large amount of a drug couldn’t possibly be for personal use, and it most likely will be sold or distributed.
Depending on the amount of the drug you have, you can be charged with a different felony offense under state or federal laws. For marijuana, any amount over 10 pounds qualifies as drug trafficking, with a minimum of 25 months in jail and $5,000 fine. More drugs equals higher fines and longer prison sentences.
So just because you’re not actually selling it, growing it, or manufacturing it, that doesn’t mean you won’t be charged with trafficking as long as you have a specific amount of the drug. And with so many drug trafficking stories dominating local news, you can be sure that prosecutors are going to want to make an example out of anyone who is already facing charges or may be charged in the near future.
About the Author:
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.