Most people go to Facebook do stay connected with people, see what’s trending, or secretly check in on their exes. It isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of criminal activity. However, that didn’t stop Chicago police from infiltrating secret Facebook groups to make a big gun and drug bust, recently taking more than 50 suspects into custody.
The investigation began when a criminal informant, who was a member of the groups, tipped off police in February 2017. The groups are private, which means that they are not searchable and can only be joined by invitation. In order to be invited, a member of the group must vouch for a prospective new member. The groups are essentially used as classifieds ads to sell illegal items such as drugs and unlicensed firearms.
Undercover officers were ultimately able to join several of these closed groups and use them as a platform to launch sting operations, where they purchased illegal drugs and unlicensed firearms. As a result, dozens of people were arrested in December 2017, including a Chicago Public Schools teacher, who now faces multiple drug charges.
In a press conference, police revealed their discovery that the secret Facebook groups are used for many different illegal activities, and advised that they would be using Facebook to conduct more sting operations in the near future. This is a good indication that it’s time to take a look at what groups you’re joining to make sure that you don’t become collateral damage.
Most of the suspects arrested face drug trafficking charges, which are serious and have life-changing consequences.
What You Need to Know about Illinois Drug Trafficking Laws
Illinois drug trafficking laws are laid out in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act. The act criminalizes the possession, manufacture, and delivery of controlled substances and their analogs for human consumption.
Elements of Drug Trafficking
An individual commits drug trafficking when he or she knowingly brings or causes to be brought drugs into Illinois for the purpose of manufacture or delivery.
To convict a defendant of drug trafficking, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly brought drugs into the state for the purpose of delivery or with the intent to deliver it elsewhere.
Sentences and Penalties
Drug trafficking offenses in our state are always charged at the felony level, ranging in severity from Class 3 to Class X felonies. The exact sentence will depend on the types and amounts of substances the defendant is accused of trafficking.
The following penalties may apply to drug trafficking charges:
- Class 3 felony: Class 3 felonies carry a prison sentence of 2-5 years. Fines of up to $25,000 may also be assessed.
- Class 2 felony: A Class 2 felony is punishable by a prison term of 3-7 years and fines up to $25,000.
- Class 1 felony: A class 1 felony is punishable by 4-15 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
- Class X felony: This is the most serious class of felony. A class X felony is punishable by a prison term of 6-60 years. A fine of up to $25,000 may also be imposed.
Further, use of cell phones or other communication devices for drug trafficking is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000.
Potential Defenses against Charges of Drug Trafficking in Illinois
Common defenses against drug trafficking charges include lack of knowledge, duress or compulsion, and entrapment.
However, use of Facebook to conduct the sting operations will make many of these defenses far more difficult. For example, a lack of intent defense would be hard to use if there is a clear record of Facebook conversations with officers. Additionally, advertisements of drugs for sale within the group could prevent you from employing a lack of knowledge defense.
Regardless of how law enforcement allegedly caught you engaging in trafficking activities, your best bet is to work with a skilled Chicago drug crimes lawyer who will be able to look at the specific circumstances of your case and put together the strongest defense.
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.