At some point in one’s adult life, they are likely to come in contact with a controlled substance either by prescription or recreationally. The current political climate takes a hard stance against controlled substances of any kind, leaving those who need them most in a difficult position. Depending on how the substances were obtained or their intended use, it’s possible to be faced with drug trafficking charges on a state or federal level. Having a clearer understanding of the legal landscape will not only allow people to be better informed, it could also offer insights on improving your chances of a positive outcome.
Understanding Drug Trafficking Charges
Drug trafficking charges involve the illegal distribution, sale, possession, or transportation of controlled substances. Charges can range from minor misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the type and quantity of drugs involved. Possession of specific amounts or participation in drug-related transactions can lead to criminal charges. The severity of charges depends on the type and quantity of drugs and whether they’re charged at the state or federal level.
The process for each criminal court system is quite different, and it’s important to know how that can impact a case. There are similarities, especially between how state law and federal law classify controlled substances; however, the involvement of federal agencies tends to have harsher penalties due to mandatory minimum sentences imposed by federal law.
Difference Between State and Federal Drug Trafficking Charges
The primary difference between state and federal offenses can be found in which law enforcement agency is handling the investigation. State drug trafficking charges, for the most part, are managed by local law enforcement and court systems and don’t typically branch further than that. In North Carolina, the penalties for conviction range from a class H felony to a more severe class C felony, which may lead to several years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
Once the drug-related activity goes beyond state lines or reaches a certain threshold, it becomes a federal case. Federal drug trafficking investigations are led by federal law enforcement agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). These cases tend to be very complicated, and the extent of the consequences can be far-reaching depending on individual circumstances and the organizations involved.
It’s important to recognize that drug trafficking charges do not always require proof of intent to distribute. For example, in North Carolina and federal law, the quantity of drugs possessed often determines the charges. This means that even possessing a certain quantity can lead to trafficking charges, regardless of whether the distribution was intended or not.
As with all criminal charges, the best thing to do is to take a proactive approach. Of course, you can’t control whether or not you’re under investigation for drug trafficking charges, but there are things you can do to protect your rights. For example, if you’re stopped by police for a road violation, or the police come to your house, do not consent to a search without a warrant and use your right to remain silent. You are also within your rights to record interactions with law enforcement as long as it doesn’t impede on their duties.The most important thing to remember is that the most valuable asset in improving your chances of a positive outcome is an attorney that is experienced in both state and federal drug trafficking charges. Not only will a legal team that has a record of success provide a personalized defense, but they will also be open and honest about your options. If you or a loved one is facing state or federal criminal charges, don’t hesitate to reach out. Call our office at (704) 358-0026 for a confidential consultation today.