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If you or someone you know is being charged with conspiracy to commit drug trafficking or drug trafficking, then harsh penalties can be faced. However, there is a new limited exception to the mandatory minimum sentencing that is in place for crimes like this: The First Step Act.

North Carolina’s First Step Act is a statute that has created a narrow exception to the sentencing guidelines for these crimes. Instead of a person being subject to these mandatory minimums, they can be sentenced under the standard rules.

However, not everyone is eligible for the exception granted by the First Step Act. Here’s what you need to know.

The Hearing

The first step to qualify for the First Step Act is to have a hearing in which the judge hears not just your evidence but the evidence against you from the prosecution, as well. The judge has to decide whether you meet the specific conditions required under the Act in order to qualify.

If you are determined to meet the conditions by the judge, then they have some discretion in your sentencing. However, they still must follow North Carolina’s sentencing grid that uses the offense level and any prior criminal history in the determination of your sentence. So, it’s not as if the judge can just give you any sentence they want – they are still bound by guidelines set by the state for drug trafficking.

What Are the Requirements for the First Step Act?

The judge decides if you fit the criteria for the first step act by assessing these 11 requirements:

  • If you have sufficiently taken responsibility for your actions
  • If you’ve never been convicted of a felony before
  • If you did threaten or use violence in the commission of the crime or possess a dangerous weapon or gun when committing the crime
  • If you admitted that you do in fact have a substance use disorder and have completed treatment for it
  • That it would be a substantial injustice to sentence you to a mandatory minimum prison sentence
  • That it isn’t necessary to put you in prison for a mandatory minimum in order to keep the public safe
  • If you only possessed a drug when you were found guilty of conspiracy to commit or committed drug trafficking
  • If there is not substantial evidence that you manufactured, sold, delivered, or transported drugs – or that you ever intended to do so
  • That you have assisted in arresting, convicted, or identifying other people involved in the crime to the best of your ability
  • That your sentence is from the lowest category for drug trafficking or conspiracy

What Are the Requirements for the First Step Act?

Is It Possible to Be Resentenced?

If you have been convicted of drug trafficking and already sentenced under the mandatory minimum guidelines, and you believe you may qualify for new sentencing under the First Step Act, you should contact an attorney today. The court can resentence you, but it must be filed before December 1, 2023, in order to do so.

It may be possible for you to have a new sentencing hearing in front of a judge to see if you qualify for the different sentencing and ultimately be resentenced under the law.

It’s important to get the advice of an experienced attorney when facing charges as serious as drug trafficking or conspiracy to traffic drugs. You never know when your case could qualify for something like the First Step Act – if you’re even aware that it exists when facing mandatory minimums in the first place.

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