A North Carolina-based group was recently caught selling large amounts of cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines. The drugs were smuggled from Texas to North Carolina by a ring of over 20 people, all of whom were arrested.
Because this case involved a large drug ring moving drugs across multiple state lines, it will be federally prosecuted. Those allegedly involved in the ring will be charged with conspiracy to traffic, and will likely face significant penalties.
It should go without saying that drug trafficking is taken very seriously at both the state and federal level. Drug trafficking of any kind is considered to be a felony, although the severity of prosecution and sentencing depends on the type and amount of the substance allegedly trafficked.
What exactly is drug trafficking, legally speaking?
It is defined as the sale, manufacture, or movement of controlled substances. However, drug trafficking charges are often pressed simply based upon the amount of the substance that is discovered. Bottom line: if you are found with an amount of illegal drugs that exceeds the legally determined trafficking amount, you can be charged with drug trafficking.
Penalties for Drug Trafficking
North Carolina lays out very specific guidelines for drug trafficking sentencing. All drug trafficking offenses are considered to be felonies, but the class of felony and associated penalties depend upon the type and amount of drugs discovered.
As mentioned above, the recent drug bust involved trafficking of cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines. Officers seized seven kilograms of cocaine, 42 pounds of marijuana, and five kilograms of crystal meth. These large amounts mean that those allegedly involved in the drug ring face significant prison terms and fines – 10 years to life in federal prison.
How did we come up with that number? You need to know the penalties typically associated with each involved drug depending on the amount:
Cocaine is commonly trafficked from South America, and is considered a Schedule II controlled substance.
Penalties for cocaine trafficking are as follows:
- 28-199 grams: Class G felony punishable by 35-51 months of imprisonment and fines up to $50,000
- 200-399 grams: Class F felony punishable by 70-93 months of imprisonment and fines up to $100,000
- 400 grams or more: Class D felony punishable by 175-200 months imprisonment and fines up to $250,000
Although marijuana has been legalized for recreational or medicinal use in many U.S. states, it is still illegal at the federal level and here in North Carolina, and is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance.
Penalties for marijuana trafficking are as follows:
- 10-49 pounds: Class H felony punishable by 25-39 months imprisonment and fines up to $5,000
- 50-1,999 pounds: Class G felony punishable by 35-51 months imprisonment and fines up to $25,000
- 2,000-9,999 pounds: Class F felony punishable by 70-93 months imprisonment and fines up to $50,000
Methamphetamine is one of the most common domestically produced drugs, and is popular for its intense high and relatively low cost. Methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance.
Penalties for trafficking methamphetamine are as follows:
- 28-199 grams: Class F felony punishable by 70-90 months imprisonment and fines up to $50,000
- 200-399 grams: Class E felony punishable by 90-120 months imprisonment and fines up to $100,000
- 400 or more grams: Class C felony punishable by 225-282 months imprisonment and fines up to $250,000
Never Try to Tackle Drug Trafficking Charges Alone
Although large drug rings are high-profile cases that are more likely to be publicized, drug trafficking charges are often brought up against individuals as well. If you are facing drug trafficking charges, you should take this matter very seriously, and be proactive in retaining the best available criminal defense attorney.
About the Author:
Jan Elliott Pritchett is Managing Partner at the Law Firm of?Schlosser & Pritchett?and one of North Carolina’s top rated criminal defense attorneys. With a practice dedicated 100% to litigation, Mr. Pritchett protects the legal rights of clients who have been charged in federal and state criminal matters, as well as DUI/DWi, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury, and traffic violations. In practice since 1995, Mr. Pritchett has earned a reputation as a highly talented and fearless lawyer, being listed among the state’s “Legal Elite” and recognized as one of the Top 100 DWI Lawyers in North Carolina by the National Advocacy of DUI Defense.? He currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, Criminal Law Specialty, and Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section.