The North Carolina Supreme Court overturned an appeals-court decision and said that possession of cocaine is a felony, the Raleigh News & Observer reported June 28.
The ruling was made in the case of repeat offenders Norman Wayne Jones and Corey Tyrone Sneed-El. The lawsuit brought to light confusion over a 1979 state law that outlines cocaine possession charges as misdemeanors or felonies.
The appeals court ruled that the General Assembly considered cocaine possession a misdemeanor. Under the ruling, Jones and Sneed-El wouldn’t be considered habitual felons. The court sent the two men back for resentencing.
But in writing for the Supreme Court, Justice Ed Brady said that the General Assembly considered cocaine possession a felony charge.
“I’m pleased that the North Carolina Supreme Court recognizes that possession of cocaine should remain a felony,” said Attorney General Roy Cooper. “This ruling is critical to our fight against drugs and crime, because it allows for longer sentences and gives prosecutors the opportunity to use cocaine-possession charges to keep habitual felons off the street.”
Daniel Shatz, the lawyer representing Sneed-El, was disappointed with the ruling, saying the system “needs some overhauling.”
“What you get is essentially a lot of people who are drug addicts or have substance-abuse problems who are being warehoused in the prison system instead of getting treatment,” he said.