Woman Sentenced to Eight Years for Smuggling Cocaine on Cruise Ship

Melina Roberge was traveling around the world, and documenting her extravagant lifestyle by posting pictures on Instagram. Her Instagram followers, however, probably had no idea that she was funding this lifestyle by smuggling cocaine.

Roberge was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to smuggling 95 kilos of cocaine into Australia.

So what would have been the result if Roberge had been charged in North Carolina?  There are a number of North Carolina criminal laws related to the possession of cocaine, possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine, sell and/or deliver cocaine, and trafficking cocaine.  The type of charge that a defendant will face is based upon the amount of cocaine and the circumstances surrounding the arrest and investigation.

In Roberge’s case, based upon the amount of cocaine, she would have likely been charged with trafficking cocaine.  Under North Carolina criminal law, criminal charges involving the possession of cocaine are distinguished in the following manner:

A charge involving 28–199 grams of cocaine will be charged as as Class G felony.
A charge involving 200–399 grams of cocaine will be charged as a class F felony.
A charge involving 400 or more grams of cocaine will be charged as a class Class D felony.

North Carolina felony drug charges have serious penalties and consequences.  If you are charged with a North Carolina drug crime in Winston-Salem such as possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine (PWISD cocaine) or trafficking in cocaine in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with a Forsyth County criminal defense attorney in Winston-Salem.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney with knowledge about drug charges to review your case and to discuss your options.

Now That Marijuana is Legal in California, Thousands of Prior Convictions Will Be Dismissed

In 2016, California voters passed an initiative which made it legal to possess marijuana for recreational purposes.  That law paved the way for recreational maijuana sales in January 2018.  Last week, in response to that law, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced that his office would be dismissing thousands of marijuana-related convictions dating back to 1975.  As a result, almost 5000 felony convictions and more than 3000 misdemeanor convictions will be reviewed as a result of this decision.

Although this news is great news for for some California residents, the possession of marijuana is still illegal in the State of North Carolina.  Some of the most common crimes related to the possession of marijuana in North Carolina are the following:

Possession of Marijuana less than 1/2 Ounce – Class 3 misdmeanor

Possession of Marijuana greater than 1/2 Ounce up to 1 1/2 Ounces – Class 1 misdemeanor

Felony Possession of Marijuana – Class I felony

Possession with Intent to Sell or Deliver Marijuana – Class I felony

Of course, these crimes don’t include trafficking marijuana, which involve the possession of larger amounts of marijuana and more serious consequences and penalties.  Under N.C.G.S. 90-95 (h)(1), “any person who sells, manufactures, delivers, transports, or possesses in excess of 10 pounds (avoirdupois) of marijuana shall be guilty of a felony which felony shall be known as ‘trafficking in marijuana’ and if the quantity of such substance involved:

     a.         Is in excess of 10 pounds, but less than 50 pounds, such person shall be punished as a Class H felon and shall be sentenced to a minimum           term of 25 months and a maximum term of 39 months in the State’s prison and shall be fined not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000);

     b.         Is 50 pounds or more, but less than 2,000 pounds, such person shall be punished as a Class G felon and shall be sentenced to a minimum           term of 35 months and a maximum term of 51 months in the State’s prison and shall be fined not less than twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000);

      c.         Is 2,000 pounds or more, but less than 10,000 pounds, such person shall be punished as a Class F felon and shall be sentenced to a                        minimum term of 70 months and a maximum term of 93 months in the State’s prison and shall be fined not less than fifty thousand dollars                    ($50,000);

      d.         Is 10,000 pounds or more, such person shall be punished as a Class D felon and shall be sentenced to a minimum term of 175 months and a        maximum term of 222 months in the State’s prison and shall be fined not less than two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000).”

North Carolina drug charges involving marijuana  can have varying penalties and consequences depending on the amount of marijuana as well as an individual’s prior record.  If you are charged with a North Carolina drug crime involving marijuana such as Felony Possession of Marijuana, PWISD Marijuana, Trafficking Marijuana or some misdemeanor marijuana charge in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney  with experience handling drug charges.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney to review your drug case involving drug charges and to discuss your options.

 

NEW OPIOID LAW IN NORTH CAROLINA

Over the past several years, there has been an increase in the number of criminal charges related to the abuse and illegal possession of opioid drugs such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.  Studies show that many young people who later used heroin had been previously using some form of opioid medication that is normally obtained by a prescription.   According to research done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse,  nearly 90 percent  of  young opioid drug users “had used opioid pain relievers nonmedically prior to using heroin, and their initiation into nonmedical use was characterized by three main sources of opioids: family, friends, or personal prescriptions.”

As a result, North Carolina has addressed this problem by passing a law that goes into effect on January 1, 2018.  Under the Stop Act, doctors are limited to prescribing five days’ worth of medication for people with acute injuries and seven days’ worth of medication for people who are recovering from a surgery.

Possession of Heroin, Oxycodone, and Hydrocodone are all class I felonies in North Carolina.  Although a class I felony is the lowest felony class in North Carolina, an individual charged with a class I felony is subject to a maximum penalty of 24 months in prison.  However, an active prison sentence for a class I felony is not mandatory, depending on the individuals’s prior criminal record.  In fact, based upon North Carolina’s felony sentencing guidelines, many individuals who are charged with Possession of Heroin, Oxycodone, and Hydrocodone are also eligible for some form of punishment that does not involve an active prison sentence.

If an individual is charged with Possession with Intent to Sell or Deliver (PWISD) Heroin, Oxycodone, or Hydrocone, that individual will then be charged with a class H felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 39 months in prison.  Although a sentence that does not include active prison time is still possible, a conviction for PWISD Heroin, Oxycodone,  or Hydrocodone will likely result in a more severe punishment depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.   Once again, an individual’s prior criminal record will also be considered.  In some instances, an active sentence is mandatory for a class H felony if an individual’s prior criminal record requires the judge to order an active prison sentence.

Finally, depending on the amount of drugs involved, you could also be subjected to a charge of Trafficking.  Trafficking involves possessing larger amount of drugs with the implication that the possession of such a large amount of drugs has occurred by an individual who is somehow engaged in the sale of these illegal drugs.  When an individual is convicted of trafficking, that punishment includes a mandatory active prison sentence, and the potential active prison sentence increases depending upon the amount of drugs that were seized during the arrest.

North Carolina felony drug charges can have serious penalties and consequences.  If you are charged with a North Carolina drug crime such as Possession of Heroin or PWISD Heroin in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with a Forsyth County criminal defense attorney.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney to review your case and to discuss your options.

Felony Sentencing: I was charged with a felony. Is it mandatory that I go to jail?

One of the most common questions that I often receive is whether someone who is charged with a felony is required to go to prison.  The simple answer is “no”.  However, the answer is still more complicated that you think.

In North Carolina, individuals who are convicted of felony crimes are subjected to felony sentencing guidelines.  As a result, to determine whether an individual is required to serve an active sentence depends on two factors:  the class of felony and the individual’s prior criminal record.  Therefore, although a judge has a lot of discretion, the guidelines also assist the judge in determining the type of judgment that may be ordered.

For example, felonies in North Carolina range from class A (most serious) to class I (least serious).  All criminal charges are obviously serious matters, but the type of punishment varies greatly from the most serious class A felony (murder) to the lease serious class I felony (possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana, etc.)

After determining the class of felony, it is then necessary to determine the individual’s prior criminal record.  For certain prior convictions, an individual will receive certain points, and those points will ultimately determine the individual’s record level for sentencing purposes.  The judge will then consider the felony conviction and the record level and issue a judgment based on the felony sentencing guidelines.

A felony conviction in North Carolina carries serious penalties and consequences.  If you are charged with a North Carolina felony in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with a Forsyth County criminal defense attorney to represent you.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 to speak with an experienced and aggressive Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney.

 

Former Carolina Panthers Player Arrested for Possession of Cocaine

Free-agent Greg Hardy, who most recently played for the Dallas Cowboys was arrested in Dallas on Monday for felony possession of cocaine.  According to the police, Hardy’s vehicle was searched after he was stopped for a traffic violation.  Prior to his stint with the Cowboys, Hardy played five years for the Carolina Panthers.

Hardy was charged in Texas, and therefore, he faces a maximum sentence of 2 years.  If he had been charged in North Carolina, felony possession of cocaine is a Class I felony, with a minimum sentencing range of probation up to a maximum active sentence of 15 months.  In North Carolina, defendants who are convicted of a felony are sentenced according to structured sentencing, whereby judges are able to sentence defendants within certain limits, and a defendant’s sentence is dependent upon the defendant’s prior criminal record as well as the type of felony.

If you are charged with felony possession of cocaine or some other North Carolina crime, you need an experienced North Carolina criminal law attorney.  Depending on your prior record and the facts and circumstances of your case, you have a lot of options with respect to how your case is resolved.  Please call us today for a free consultation at (336) 725-6559 in our office which is located in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  In addition to Forsyth County, we also handle cases in the counties of Davidson, Davie, Guilford, Stokes, Surry, and Yadkin.

 

DRUG PARAPHERNALIA:  A MODEST PROPOSAL

While there are many laws that I would like to see modified, perhaps one of the laws that is most deserving of modification is the offense of possession of drug paraphernalia.  According to North Carolina General Statute 90-113.22, “it is unlawful for any person to knowingly use, or to possess with intent to use, drug paraphernalia to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, package, repackage, store, contain, or conceal a controlled substance which it would be unlawful to possess, or to inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the body a controlled substance which it would be unlawful to possess.” So what is drug paraphernalia?  Under North Carolina General Statute 90-113.21, drug paraphernalia is defined as “all equipment, products and materials of any kind that are used to facilitate, or intended or designed to facilitate, violations of the Controlled Substances Act, including planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, and concealing controlled substances and injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing controlled substances into the human body”  Along with this broad definition, the statute also lists several specific examples of items that are classified as drug paraphernalia.  Some of those examples include scales, plastic bags, rolling papers, pipes, and bowls, just to name a few.   The fact that the possession of drug paraphernalia is unlawful is not surprising.  However, the possible punishment for the possession of drug paraphernalia is surprising and may lead to unfair and nonsensical results in some cases.

Let’s start with the basics.  Any individual who is convicted of the possession of drug paraphernalia shall be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor, which means that a conviction for this offense may result in a possible maximum jail sentence of 120 days.  This sentence may not seem that unfair for an individual who is also charged with a felony drug offense or a misdemeanor drug offense which is also a class 1 misdemeanor.  However, the unfairness becomes apparent for an individual who is charged with a class 3 misdemeanor along with the offense of possession of drug paraphernalia.  An individual charged with a class 3 misdemeanor faces a possible maximum sentence of only 20 days, and one example of a class 3 misdemeanor drug offense is the possession of up to one-half  ounce of marijuana.  In many instances, individuals who are charged with a class 3 possession of marijuana are also carrying or storing that marijuana in a plastic bag or that individual is also in possession of rolling papers or cigar papers to smoke the marijuana which is currently in their possession.

In that scenario, individuals who are charged with both the class 3 misdemeanor possession of marijuana and class 1 misdemeanor of paraphernalia (plastic bags, cigar papers, or rolling papers) actually face more time for possessing paraphernalia than for actually possessing drugs.   Let me repeat that.  A defendant can receive a possible maximum sentence of 120 days for a plastic bag that was being used to carry or store the marijuana, but that same defendant only faces a sentence of 20 days for the marijuana that was being stored in that same bag.  If the legislature has already determined that an individual who possesses one-half ounce of marijuana or less should be exposed to no more than 20 days in jail (a class 3 misdemeanor), then does it really make sense in that scenario that the punishment for possessing the accompanying paraphernalia charge should exceed the possible punishment for the drug possession offense? After all, possessing plastic bags, rolling papers, and cigar papers alone doesn’t constitute a violation of our criminal laws.  The possession of these items only becomes unlawful once drugs are involved.

Therefore, I would propose the following modification.  In those instances, where the drug possession offense only constitutes a class 3 misdemeanor, the possession of drug paraphernalia would likewise only be punishable as no greater than a class 3 misdemeanor offense.  However, the law would remain unchanged where the drug possession offense results in a conviction of either a class 1 misdemeanor or felony.  In those instances, the possible maximum punishment for possession of drug paraphernalia would still remain as a class 1 misdemeanor.

The possession of drug paraphernalia is a serious misdemeanor offense with serious penalties and consequences.  If you are charged in North Carolina with the possession of drug paraphernalia or any other felony or misdemeanor drug offenses, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer in North Carolina who is able to assist you.  Please call me today for a free consultation in my office, which is located in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

****UPDATE – On December 1, 2014, the North Carolina legislature changed the law to distinguish between marijuana paraphernalia and paraphernalia for all other drugs.  Now, under N.C.G.S. 90-113.22A, the charge of marijuana drug paraphernalia is punishable as a class 3 misdemeanor.