If you have been arrested for drug trafficking in North Carolina, your case could result in federal charges. In this post, we will detail how law enforcement officials decide whether to charge a drug trafficking case at the state or federal level.
How Drug Trafficking Is Charged in North Carolina
Both North Carolina and federal laws penalize drug trafficking, which is the sale, manufacture transport, and/or import of illegal controlled substances. Punishments vary depending on the type of drug or drugs in the case, as well as the amount. If children were targeted, the penalties can be enhanced.
Drug possession is a lesser charge than trafficking, because trafficking involves an intent to distribute the drugs to others. Drug trafficking charges can apply to prescription drugs as well as illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
Something important to understand is that law enforcement officials do not need proof that you moved the drugs for drug trafficking charges to apply. In fact, you can be charged even if you never distributed the drugs if the quantity of drugs is large enough.
What Makes Something a Federal Drug Trafficking Offense
Federal offenses commonly involve drug trafficking. If your case is charged at the federal level, the penalties are even harsher than what you will likely receive at the state level.
What constitutes a federal charge? There are no set criteria. Federal judges have the right to choose which cases get picked up by their courts.
However, the most common reason a trafficking case ends up in federal court is that it involves a large drug trafficking operation that cross state lines – or even different countries. Remember, though, this isn’t a requirement for the feds to step in. It is not unheard of for federal cases to be made against drug trafficking rings within a single state, especially if opiates are being sold.
Federal Sentencing for Drug Trafficking
If you are convicted in a federal drug trafficking case, you will likely be subject to mandatory minimum prison sentencing. Even if you are a first-time offender, a mandatory minimum sentence may apply.
As with all drug trafficking crimes, the sentencing will depend on the type and amount of drugs in question. It will also be enhanced if serious bodily injury or death occurred in conjunction with the case.
Currently, opiates are a big target for federal cases. If your case involves heroin, fentanyl, or other opiates, you are more likely to be charged at the federal level. Below are examples of sentencing at the federal level for fentanyl or heroin.
Trafficking 40 to 399 grams of fentanyl or 100 to 999 grams of heroin:
- 5 to 40 years in prison for first offense with no serious bodily injury
- 20 years to life in prison for first offense with serious bodily injury or death
- 10 years to life in prison for repeat offense with no serious bodily injury
- Life in prison for repeat offense with serious bodily injury or death
The federal government also aggressively prosecutes drug trafficking cases involving cocaine, since it is produced in South America and trafficked to the United States. Methamphetamines are another common target for federal prosecutions, as are large quantities of marijuana.
Steep fines typically accompany federal convictions. While state fines may reach into the tens of thousands, federal fines can reach well into the millions.
Get Help for Your North Carolina Drug Trafficking Charges
You must take your charges very seriously, since a conviction could permanently affect your life. Enlist the help of a qualified North Carolina drug crimes attorney. We will review your case for free to determine what defenses may be available. Get in touch today for a free consultation.