When most people think of drug trafficking they envision pallets of drugs stored in a warehouse or being transported in large quantities for sale. However, under North Carolina law, the amount of drugs needed is often much less than one might imagine. Just a single ounce of cocaine or methamphetamine can lead a defendant afoul of the state’s trafficking laws. Perhaps more alarming is the fact that only 4 grams of heroin or opiates will support a conviction for trafficking in North Carolina.
Mixtures containing illegal drugs are to be measured in their entirety as the means of determining the amount of the controlled substance. This means that regardless of the actual amount of controlled substance contained in the mixture, the amount of controlled substance is determined by entire measure of the mixture. Perhaps where this becomes most problematic is regarding unlawful possession of prescription Opioids. While a single pill may only contain a few milligrams of the controlled substance itself, the entire weight of the pill is measured when determining whether or not the person will be charged with drug trafficking. While the weight of prescription pills varies tremendously, some Hydrocodone pills can weigh about 0.79 grams each. For practical purposes this means that merely possessing 6 pills could lead to drug trafficking charges under North Carolina law. N.C.G.S. § 90-95(h)(4).
The punishment following a conviction for drug trafficking in North Carolina is severe. These cases are not sentenced like others and are almost always accompanied with mandatory minimum fines between $5,000 and $500,000. Furthermore, these types of charges carry mandatory minimum prison sentences ranging from 25-282 months. Persons convicted of conspiracy to traffic drugs are sentenced as if they were charged with actually trafficking. However, while attempted trafficking is charged at the same the same level as the trafficking offense, sentencing for attempted trafficking does not come with these special mandatory provisions.