Why drug distribution investigations can take months, years before charges are filed

Despite the state cracking down on people who deal deadly drugs, holding those responsible remains difficult.

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Fentanyl claims the lives of about 12 North Carolinians every day.

Death by distribution laws hold the dealers accountable if users die, but it’s not as simple as tracking the dealer down.

New Hanover and Pender County district attorney Ben David says most cases involving death by distribution don’t go to trial, often because the nature of the crime doesn’t leave much evidence.

“The best victim can’t tell you what happened. And so, we have to try these like any homicide, relying on things like digital footprints and witness interviews,” David said.

David says because they need evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, investigations can take months, sometimes even more than a year, before charges are filed. It’s worth it to the families who have lost someone.

“Everyone’s someone’s baby. And we know that this epidemic is visiting houses across our district. And we are going to go wherever we can to make sure that justice is being done,” he said.

Part of that justice is stiffer penalties, such as murder charges for the dealer if the user dies.

David isn’t buying it when someone says they didn’t know the drugs were laced.

“No one can claim, at this point, that they’re unaware that fentanyl is deadly. And if they are mixing that into drugs or are selling it in a pure form to begin with, they should not be surprised when their best customers are dying,” David said. “They should not be surprised when we try to put them into prison for murder and nothing less.”

David wants people to know that North Carolinians are protected under immunity to call 9-1-1 in the case of an emergency, even if it involves illegal drugs. It can save lives.

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