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What Are the Potential Penalties for Drug Trafficking Charges?


The attitude of Americans toward drug addiction has generally softened over the years. One recent survey of 2,000 individuals found that approximately 70% of respondents stated they have become more sympathetic to those addicted to drugs over the past five years.

However, even as states grapple with whether to decriminalize marijuana possession and use, there still remains widespread opposition to those who illegally traffic or sell drugs to others. This dynamic is reflected in North Carolina’s criminal statutes, which can impose significant penalties on individuals convicted of trafficking drugs.

What Constitutes Drug Trafficking in North Carolina

While you may have an idea of what drug trafficking is, the intricacies of it under North Carolina law may be more complex than you realize. 

Trafficking in drugs in North Carolina encompasses selling, transporting, or possessing a certain quantity of drugs with the intent to distribute them. A “sale” of drugs does not need to involve money to be punishable as trafficking.

In any trafficking prosecution, the amount and type of drugs involved in the incident matter. You can face criminal charges for trafficking if the incident involves:

  • 28 grams or more of cocaine, methamphetamine, or amphetamine
  • Four or more grams of opium or heroin
  • 100 doses or more of MDA/MDMA or LSD
  • Ten pounds or more of marijuana
  • 50 doses or more of synthetic cannabinoids

These quantities represent the minimum amount of drugs that will subject you to liability for trafficking. The greater the amount of drugs involved, the more severe the penalties you would face.

Penalties for Drug Trafficking in North Carolina

Depending on the amount and type of drug involved in your case, a conviction could land you in prison for a significant amount of time. Examples of minimum drug trafficking sentences include the following:

Marijuana Trafficking

If you are found with 10 to 50 pounds of marijuana, your minimum sentence could be 25 months. You could also face a fine of $5,000. Possessing 10,000 or more pounds of marijuana results in the most severe sentence, which includes a minimum sentence of 175 months and a $200,000 fine.

Methamphetamine Trafficking

Trafficking between 28 and 200 grams of methamphetamine can result in a Class F felony conviction, which can lead to a minimum sentence of 70 months. If you traffic 400 grams or more of methamphetamine, a conviction could result in a minimum sentence of 225 months and a $200,000 fine.

Opium, Opioids, and Heroin Trafficking

Just four grams of opium, opioids, or heroin is sufficient to support a trafficking charge that can lead to a 70-month minimum sentence. The associated fine would be $50,000. The longest minimum sentence that can be imposed is 225 months, which accompanies a conviction for trafficking 28 grams or more of these substances.

Consulting a Criminal Defense Attorney Is Vital

North Carolina imposes harsh penalties for those convicted of trafficking any type of illegal drugs. If you are charged with this offense, hiring an experienced North Carolina criminal defense lawyer who can help you investigate your case, develop a strategy to address the allegations, and defend yourself against these potential penalties is critical.

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