Combining Drug Quantities

I’ve recently been asked several variants of this question: If a suspect sells drugs to an undercover officer on multiple occasions over a few days or weeks, can the drug quantities involved in each sale be aggregated to reach the trafficking threshold? That led me to spend some time looking at the more general issue of when multiple caches of drugs can be combined. This post lays out the law.

Read more

Heavy Traffic to a Residence and Probable Cause

The court of appeals decided a case today concerning a fact pattern that arises frequently in drug cases. State v. McKinney began when an officer received a “citizen complaint” about “heavy traffic in and out of” a particular apartment, with the visitors staying only a short time. The citizen stated that he or she had … Read more

When an Arrestee “Brings” Drugs to the Jail

When a person is arrested while in possession of drugs and is taken to the jail in handcuffs, may the person properly be convicted of possessing drugs in a confinement facility? The question has divided courts across the country. Last week, a majority of the court of appeals concluded that the answer is yes. State … Read more

Changes in Federal Drug Prosecutions — Spillover in State Court?

Earlier this week, United States Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking to American Bar Association, announced a policy change in how drug cases will be charged in federal court. This post summarizes Mr. Holder’s speech, the policy change it announced, and its likely impact in federal court. It then considers whether the new policy will have … Read more


Why Trafficking Really Bites

Drug trafficking offenses can lead to really long sentences, and not just because of the special minimums and maximums that apply to those crimes. Consider this example: My husband and I agree to grow marijuana. We grow and harvest 50 pounds of it. We then arrange to sell it to a street-level distributor. Finally, we … Read more

Lance Armstrong

Cyclist Lance Armstrong has recently confessed to using performance enhancing drugs during each of his seven Tour de France victories. Public discussion has focused on whether his apology, during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, was genuine or not. I want to consider whether his conduct was criminal. (By “conduct,” I mean the doping and related … Read more


Delivery of a Controlled Substance and the “Pot Exception”

G.S. 90-95(a)(1) makes it a crime to knowingly sell or deliver a controlled substance to another person. As a general rule, the delivery of marijuana—a Schedule VI controlled substance—is a Class I felony. G.S. 90-95(b)(2). However, the statute provides that it is not a delivery to transfer for no remuneration less than 5 grams of … Read more


Court OKs Measuring Combined Bags in Drug Cases

In State v. Huerta, the court of appeals recently reaffirmed its controlled substance “combination decisions.” Here’s what happened. Huerta was convicted of, among other things, trafficking by possession of more than 400 grams of cocaine. During a search of Huerta’s house, officers found three caches of what turned out to be cocaine: (1) one kilogram-sized … Read more


Now Where Are We with Drug ID?

Several earlier posts (here, here, here and here) and this article discuss the North Carolina Supreme Court’s ruling in State v. Ward, 364 N.C. 133 (2010), that the identification of a controlled substance based upon mere visual inspection is insufficiently reliable to serve as the basis for an expert’s opinion pursuant to Rule 702 of … Read more