Generally, the term “mandatory minimums” is associated with federal courts. However, Illinois state courts also have mandatory minimums for a variety of crimes, including drug trafficking.
Mandatory minimums are controversial in that a mandatory minimum prison sentence must be imposed for certain charges, regardless of the defendant’s prior criminal record or any mitigating circumstances surrounding the offense. This minimum is excessive in many cases, including some drug trafficking crimes. In fact, judges often disagree with the mandatory minimums they’re forced to impose.
For this reason, mandatory minimum guidelines are under reform nationwide, including in Illinois. Current legislation proposes to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing for certain crimes, although drug trafficking is not under consideration right now.
Although Illinois’ mandatory minimums for drug trafficking may eventually be lifted, we can expect them to be imposed for the foreseeable future. Therefore, we’ve provided this guide specifically addressing mandatory minimum sentencing for Illinois drug trafficking.
How Illinois Law Defines Drug Trafficking
The Illinois Controlled Substance Trafficking Act was imposed during the War on Drugs, and was put in place to keep large quantities of drugs from entering the state by shutting down drug trafficking rings and cartels.
Under Illinois law, drug trafficking occurs when the defendant “knowingly brings or causes to be brought into the State for the purpose of manufacture or delivery or with the intent to manufacture a controlled substance other than methamphetamine or counterfeit substance in this or any other state or county is guilty of controlled substances trafficking.”
In plain English, a person is charged with drug trafficking for importing or exporting drugs. The law does not differentiate between methods of transit, and trafficking also applies to ingredients used for drug manufacture.
Illinois is unique from some other states in that the crime of drug trafficking is a separate offense from drug distribution or delivery. In fact, defendants charged with drug trafficking are often frequently charged with drug distribution or possession with intent to distribute as well. Drug trafficking here refers specifically to bringing drugs into or out of Illinois.
To find a defendant guilty of drug trafficking, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:
- Brought or arranged transport of
- A controlled substance
- Into or out of the state of Illinois
A controlled substance is either an illegal narcotic such as a heroin or cocaine, or a prescription medication such as painkillers when the offender does not possess a legal prescription.
Drug Trafficking Penalties in Illinois
In Illinois, if a defendant is convicted of drug trafficking, the judge is authorized by the Illinois Controlled Substance Trafficking Act to sentence the defendant to incarceration for no less than twice the minimum term and no more than twice the maximum term for manufacture, possession, and possession with intent to distribute.
Like other drug crimes, drug trafficking is sentenced and penalized by the type of amount of substances in question. Below we review the sentencing guidelines for Illinois drug trafficking crimes.
Class X Felonies
The below drug trafficking offenses are charged as Class X Felonies, and are punishable by the specified prison terms:
- Heroin, fentanyl, morphine, LSD
- 15-100 grams: 6-30 years
- 100-400 grams: 9-40 years
- 400-900 grams: 12-50 years
- 900+ grams: 15-60 years
- Peyote, barbiturates, amphetamines
- PCP, opiates, ketamine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and other Schedule I and II drugs
Class 1 Felonies
The below drug trafficking offenses are charged as Class 1 Felonies, and are punishable by the specified prison terms:
- Heroin, fentanyl, cocaine
- Peyote, barbiturates, amphetamines
- Pentazocine, methaqualone, PCP, ketamine
- Hydrocodone, oxycodone, and other Schedule I and II drugs
- 500-100- grams: 4-15 years
- 2,000-5,000 grams: 4-15 years
Class 2 Felonies
The below drug trafficking offenses are charged as Class 2 Felonies, and are punishable by the specified prison terms:
- Other narcotics, LSD analogs, amphetamine, fentanyl, BZP
- Amounts less than specified for Class 1 Felonies: 3-7 years
- 500-2,000 grams: 3-7 years
Class 3 Felonies
The below drug trafficking offenses are charged as Class 3 Felonies, and are punishable by the specified prison terms:
- Schedule III, IV, or V drugs: 2-5 years
- Marijuana, 30-500 grams: 2-5 years
Federal drug trafficking charges are extremely bad. However, as you can see, even if you are “just” facing Illinois drug trafficking charges, you are subject to strictly enforced mandatory minimums. That’s why it’s imperative to fight back and beat any drug trafficking charges against you.
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.