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What is the Penalty for Being the "Leader" of a Drug Operation in North Carolina?

While there is no specific law that penalizes North Carolina residents for taking up leadership roles in the criminal world, so-called "ringleaders" may face much worse penalties than their underlings. Authorities in the Tar Heel State often attempt to "cut the head from the snake" when tackling organized crime – and this is something leaders of drug-trafficking organizations should be aware of. What kind of penalties can you expect for leading drug operations in North Carolina?

Gang Leader Sentenced to 20 Years

On November 8, 2023, the Justice Department announced that the leader of a gang had been sentenced to 20 years in prison. This individual had been accused of leading a violent criminal enterprise that dealt cocaine and crack in Raleigh, North Carolina. His leadership role led to enhanced penalties, according to the Justice Department. Writing about the sentencing, U.S. Attorney Michael Easley stated:


"This conviction and sentence ensure that a violent gang leader will remain in federal prison for the next two decades. We will continue to partner with law enforcement at every level to identify, investigate, and prosecute the individuals driving the violence in our community."


The defendant was accused of ordering his underlings to commit numerous offenses – including the murder of at least one competing criminal. An investigation determined that the defendant coordinated and directed a number of drug deals. Police also documented him selling at least one firearm. All of these factors led to enhanced sentencing.

This shows that although two people may be charged with dealing cocaine, there may be markedly different sentences depending on whether the defendant "ordered" the transactions or whether they were simply following directions. While both acts are clearly illegal, a leadership role can and will lead to enhanced sentencing.


State Trooper Gets 21 Years for Selling Cocaine

That being said, there are many other factors that may enhance sentences associated with cocaine distribution. Perhaps the worst penalties imaginable are reserved for corrupt police officers. This was made clear when a former North Carolina State Trooper was sentenced on November 1 to 21 years behind bars. This individual had been caught in 2022 with 5 kilograms of cocaine. According to at least one report, this police officer was working with certain drug cartels.

Where Can I Find a Qualified Defense Attorney in North Carolina?

If you have been accused of leading a drug-trafficking organization, it makes sense to get in touch with a qualified North Carolina defense attorney at your earliest convenience. As we have seen, these offenses can come with strict penalties. With help from a defense attorney, you may mitigate consequences by showing that you did not play a leadership role in the organization. There are many other potential defense strategies that may be viable, so book your consultation today to determine the most viable course of action.

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