North Carolina’s First Step Act
On June 26, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper signed the First Step Act into law, which went into effect December 1, 2020. You can read the bill here in its entirety. The First Step Act applies to those convicted of drug trafficking or conspiracy to commit drug trafficking. Normally, these types of convictions carry a mandatory sentence of 25-months; however, this new law will allow judges discretion to apply a shorter sentence if the offender meets certain requirements.
If you have been charged with a drug-related crime, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case and potential eligibility under the First Step Act. A criminal defense attorney can review the details of your case to determine if you are eligible. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.What is the Process Under the First Step Act?
Under the First Step Act, a defendant, or their attorney, may motion for a reduced sentence at any time during the sentencing portion of the trial. Once the motion for a reduced sentence is filed, a judge will review and allow the prosecutor an opportunity to explain why the defendant does not qualify for reduced sentencing under the First Step Act. The prosecutor may have an opportunity to present evidence to show ineligibility, but it is ultimately up to the judge to determine whether or not a defendant is eligible for a reduced sentence. It is important to have an attorney on your side who can not only help to see if you are eligible for a reduced sentence, but also defend your case during the sentencing portion of the trial.What are the Requirements?
The First Step Act is not retroactive and will only apply to sentencing ordered on or after December 1, 2020. However, there is an exception to this rule. The First Step Act includes a provision that may allow certain inmates who are currently serving a sentence solely for drug trafficking, to file a motion to seek a sentence modification. The inmate cannot have any other felony convictions, and the drug quantity trafficked must be in the lowest category for that particular substance. Eligible inmates must also file within 36 months of when the First Step Act went into effect. The bill itself is unclear whether these requirements are on top of the below requirements for those not yet sentenced. It is best to contact an attorney who can review the specifics of your case and determine if you may be eligible.
For sentencing occurring on or after December 1, 2020, you must meet the very limited and specific requirements to be eligible for reduced sentencing:
- The defendant must accept responsibility for the crime.
- The defendant may not have been previously or simultaneously convicted of another felony.
- The defendant did not use any violence, threats of violence, or possess a weapon at the time of the drug trafficking crime.
- The defendant did not use violence, threats of violence, or possess a weapon at the time of any other crime.
- The defendant must complete an approved treatment program for substance abuse and admit that he or she does have a substance abuse problem.
- Imposing the mandatory sentence term would be substantially unjust.
- Imposing the mandatory sentence is not necessary to protect the public.
- The sentencing is solely for drug-trafficking or conspiracy to commit drug trafficking.
- There must be no substantial evidence that the defendant ever engaged, or had the intent to engage, in the transport of drugs for sale, manufacture, or delivery.
- The defendant must have provided the identification of any accomplices, accessories, co-conspirators, or principals involved with the drug trafficking to the best of his or her knowledge.
- The quantity of drugs involved in the drug trafficking or conspiracy to traffic, must not be greater than the lowest category for which a defendant may be convicted for trafficking. These amounts can be found here.
If you have been charged with a drug-related crime, you may be eligible for a reduced sentence under North Carolina’s First Step Act. It is important to have a criminal defense attorney review your case to see if you are eligible and help you move forward.
At Arnold & Smith, PLLC we know this can be a scary and overwhelming time, and we are here to help. Contact us today for a consultation. For your convenience and safety, we offer video and phone conferencing. If you prefer an in-person consultation, we have three easy to reach offices in Uptown Charlotte, Monroe, and Mooresville.