A Charlotte man may well spend the rest of his natural life in prison after receiving a hefty sentence for federal drug and weapons charges. The 28-year-old man was sentenced to a 60-year prison term for his involvement in a local drug trafficking ring. Investigators say the man was able to sneak in hundreds of pounds of marijuana through airports in North Carolina.
A federal indictment charges at least nine members of an alleged drug ring of conspiracy to possess and distribute methamphetamine in western North Carolina. At least three more individuals are wanted in connection with the meth ring.
In many instances, we think about drug trafficking charges being related to illegal drugs such as marijuana or cocaine. Prescription drug trafficking is also fairly prevalent, however, with scores of criminal defendants facing charges throughout North Carolina because of possession and distribution drug crimes. Now, one Iredell County woman is facing serious penalties after she was allegedly found distributing a large number of prescription painkillers in the area.
Drug trafficking crimes will trigger mandatory minimum sentences at both the state and federal level. Possession of a deadly weapon - like a gun - during the commission of a drug crime is considered an aggravating factor that will mean more time in prison upon conviction. Under federal law, it doesn't matter if you actually fire the gun during a drug crime or if you aide and abet the firing of the gun, you will be punished the same if found guilty of possessing a gun during the commission of a drug offense.
It's common knowledge that drug crimes are treated very seriously in American. Often, they're prosecuted as a federal offense and can lead to years or decades of imprisonment. Even after one is released, they will suffer from reduced opportunities in the job market as a result of their previous conviction.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder made a remarkable announcement: U.S. district attorneys would no longer seek mandatory sentences against first time, nonviolent offenders. Of course, the attorney general does not have the power to override our nation's drug laws; mandatory sentences still remain on the books. Instead, prosecutors were asked to pursue other charges against first time offenders, charges that did not carry a heavy mandatory sentence. In this way, people accused of minor drug crimes would no longer face years of imprisonment.
It's a fact of American law that drug cases can involve some truly incredible numbers. State and federal laws treat drug crimes very seriously, and so the punishments for them can be very severe. Even small amounts of drugs can result in double-digit prison terms, and the punishments associated with multiple charges can quickly stack up.
America has some of the strictest drug laws in the entire world. In the last twenty years, these laws have become ever stronger, fueled by mandatory sentencing laws that can cause first-time drug offenders to spend years or decades behind bars. Tens of thousands of Americans are currently incarcerated for drug-related offenses.
Prescription drug crimes come in a variety of packages. Many prescription drug crimes are the result of dishonest doctors who fill out prescriptions when there is no medical need. Other times, single patients are given more pills than they require, and sell the extras. Pharmacy and hospital employees are responsible for some of the pill theft as well. According to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, however, pill theft among assisted living home employees is on the rise.
In a surprise announcement earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he is instructing federal prosecutors to stop enforcing the nation's mandatory drug sentencing laws. Instead, prosecutors are asked to process the case in such a way as to avoid triggering the mandatory sentences, which will allow judges to apply lighter punishments.