NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A 37-year-old North Charleston man is facing up to 10 years in federal prison after entering a guilty plea on a firearms charge.

Deontrae Smalls pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and no contest to possession with intent to distribute marijuana while in court this week, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.

Charleston County deputies initiated a traffic stop on Smalls after they said he ran a traffic light in September 2019. While approaching his vehicle, deputies said they could smell marijuana coming from the vehicle.

“After searching the vehicle, deputies found a loaded .40 caliber handgun and marijuana, packaged in 26 small bags, inside the dashboard of the vehicle. Smalls also had more than $1,000 in cash in his pocket at the time of arrest,” said Corey F. Ellis, US Attorney for the District of SC.

Smalls was prohibited from possessing a firearm because of a prior drug distribution conviction, of which he served five years.

“During the stop, Smalls told deputies he knew he was not supposed to possess a gun,” said officials.

United States District Judge Bruce H. Hendricks accepted the plea and will sentence Smalls after receiving and reviewing a sentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office.

He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. He also faces a fine of up to $250,000, restitution, and three years of supervision to follow the term of imprisonment.

This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Orville is prosecuting the case.