How Do Law Enforcement Officers Decide to Bring a Drug Distribution Charge?

Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Can I be arrested without evidence against me?”


Facing a drug distribution charge is a very serious matter. But how do law enforcement officers and prosecutors decide whether to charge you with possession of a controlled substance, a lesser charge, or distribution or trafficking of a controlled substance, the more serious charge?


various-abusive-drugs-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Drug-defense-lawyer--300x225The Amount of Drugs Found is Key

There are a number of factors that can lead to a drug distribution or trafficking charge.  One of the most important things law enforcement officers and prosecutors look at when deciding what charge to bring is the actual amount of the substance that was found. While a small amount of drugs might be just for personal use, a larger amount in your possession can indicate to an officer that you may be involved in drug distribution or trafficking.


Other Indicia of Drug Distribution/Trafficking

Aside from considering just the amount of drugs found, law enforcement can look for other clues, known as indicia, to determine if there is enough evidence against you to support a drug distribution or trafficking charge instead of just a drug possession charge.

  • Small Baggies and other packaging materials: These are frequently used to divide large amounts of a controlled substance into smaller amounts for sale and distribution.
  • Scales: Drug distributors will use scales to measure out the small amounts to package for sale.
  • Cutting agents: Some drug distributors will use cutting agents, typically some sort of non-drug powdery substance, to dilute the drugs so they can increase the number of packages they can sell.
  • Cash: Large amounts of cash, especially if you do not have proof of an obvious legitimate source such as pay stubs, can point to distribution.
  • Financial ledgers: Referred to by law enforcement officers as “pay/owe sheets,” these ledgers are powerful evidence that a suspect is engaged in drug distribution or trafficking.
  • Unusual foot traffic: If officers are conducting surveillance on a house and see a lot of visitors going in and out at odd times, this can also indicate drug trafficking or distribution at that location.
  • Trash: Trash left on a curb or in a dumpster is free for the taking for law enforcement.  If they find anything drug related and can tie the garbage to you or your house, they can use what they find against you in building their case.
  • Firearms or weapons: People engaging in drug distribution or trafficking often have firearms or weapons. If an officer finds a weapon on you as well as a large amount of drugs or other paraphernalia, there is a good chance they will think you are engaged in distribution or trafficking of narcotics.

These are just a few of the signs law enforcement officers look for to determine if you are distributing or trafficking drugs, and the more of these indicia officers discover during their investigation, the more likely they are to bring charges of drug distribution or trafficking.


Retain an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in North Carolina

If you find yourself facing a criminal drug distribution charge, it is critical to find experienced, professional legal help to ensure the best outcome for you under the law. The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, will provide an aggressive defense on your behalf while ensuring all of your rights are protected. Please contact us today to get a phone, video or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.





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