Have you ever been to a party busted up by the cops?
Last month, 15 teenagers in Lincolnshire were arrested for underage drinking at a house party. After receiving a report, officers heard loud music, saw people running away, and found “several cans of alcohol” on the front lawn. The teenagers were all charged with consumption of alcohol by a minor.
Now, as an adult you can’t be charged for drinking in Illinois – or even being intoxicated in public – but what if there were drugs at your Memorial Day BBQ and the cops came to break up the party?
First, you need to understand what the drug possession laws are here in Illinois, and then you need to know how to protect your rights and defend against any potential charges.
What Constitutes Drug Possession in Illinois?
There are two types of possession: actual possession and constructive possession.
Actual possession means you have “physical dominion” over it. For example, if something is in your hand or locked away in a safe and you have the key, you have actual possession over it.
Constructive possession is more complicated. According to the law, it “generally is found where a person knows of the presence of a controlled substance and has intent and capability to maintain control and possession of it, or has exclusive control of the area where the controlled substance was located.”
This second one is more the situation you are likely to find yourself in if others are using drugs at your party, because it could be argued that you have “exclusive control of the area” or the “capability to maintain control.” Obviously, this is an argument that you would want to strive to debunk.
When it comes to drug possession, the penalty depends on the type of drug and how much you have.
Last year, our state decriminalized marijuana possession of up to 10 grams. So if you’re found with a few grams of marijuana, you will only receive a ticket with a fine between $100 and $200. Over 10 grams, however, is a misdemeanor with a $2,500 fine and up to one year in jail. More than 30 grams? That’s a felony, which means longer jail times and bigger fines.
If you’re in possession of other drugs such as cocaine or heroin, you’re looking at a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1-3 years in jail and a fine of up to $25,000. Any more than 15 grams and you could be charged with a Class 1 felony, which has mandatory prison time.
LSD? The more doses you have, the more severe the penalty. Under 15 doses is a class 4 felony, but more than 15 is a class 1 felony.
What If the Cops Show Up at Your Party?
If you’re having a party and the cops show up, remember that you don’t have to let them in unless they have a warrant. If they do have a warrant, though, and they come into your house, find drugs, and decide to charge you with drug possession, the first thing you need to do is contact an experienced Illinois drug attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can look at the facts of your case and determine the best defense to get the charges reduced or dropped altogether.
One of the first things your attorney will look at is whether your Fourth Amendment rights were violated. You are guaranteed a lawful search and seizure. So if the police don’t have a warrant but still search you and your home, the drugs they find can’t be entered into evidence – due to them being obtained illegally – and charges tend to be dismissed. If officers see drugs out in the open, however, those can be used as evidence.
Another common drug possession defense is simply saying the drugs aren’t yours. If the drugs were found out in the open, how can prosecutors prove that they were yours and not someone else’s at the party? Or maybe you didn’t even know there were drugs at the party.
Facing drug possession charges this Memorial Day weekend? Reach out to a skilled Illinois criminal defense attorney to have the best chance to beat those charges.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.