Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Defending Clients against Drug Crimes Charges
In 2015, nearly 1.5 million arrests were made in the United States for drug law violations. Drug crimes are an all encompassing term for those crimes involving controlled substances. Controlled substances, for legal purposes, are drugs that are dispensed under the prescription of a doctor, but are declared by federal or state law to be illegal for sale or use without a prescription. These drugs have been designated as such due to their potential for addiction, misuse, abuse, harm to the general public and drug trafficking.
Laws differ among the states as to what is considered a controlled substance and what fines or punishments are implemented if someone is found to be in unlawfully possessing, using, distributing, or producing any of these drugs. On a federal level, drug crimes tend to lead to a heavier sentencing, since charges such as drug trafficking can involve moving drugs across state lines and thus are punishable by a longer sentence. On a state level, drug use or possession are the more common offenses and generally have a shorter sentencing timeframe. The lines begin to blur when it comes to how marijuana is treated, now that it has been legalized for both recreational and medicinal purposes in a large portion of America.
Types of Drug Crimes
Possession of cannabis and other drugs such as heroin, meth, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, ketamine, morphine, oxycontin and other prescription pills is a criminal offense in the state of Illinois. Despite the constant efforts of states and lawmakers to legalize cannabis, the efforts always fall short, including places such as Illinois. Despite the notion that the drug is harmless, and should not be a major issue, being arrested and convicted of possession of cannabis can severely impact an individual’s future. More importantly, charges stemming from possession, sales, distribution or trafficking of drugs such as heroin, meth, cocaine and prescription drugs (unauthorized medications) and large amounts of marijuana are felonies. As such, they are far more severe, and penalties can include high fines and imprisonment of a year or more.
The severity of the sentencing will also depend on what drug schedule the drug is under according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. There are five schedules that differ according to whether they have a currently accepted medical use or a potential for abuse or dependence. Schedule I drugs are defined as those with no currently accepted medical use and have a high potential for abuse, including: heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, and peyote. Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse and also may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence, which include: Vicodin, methamphetamine, cocaine, methadone, Demerol, OxyContin, Fentanyl, Adderall and Ritalin.
In the event you are arrested for a drug crime, you may be charged with any one of the following depending on the schedule and amount of the drug:
- Possession: Depending on the quantity of the drug, an individual can be charged with simple possession, or possession with intent to sell. Simple possession is the most common type of drug crime that an individual can be arrested for and occurs when the individual knowingly and intentionally possesses a controlled substance, fails to provide a prescription for the controlled substance, and has a sufficient amount to satisfy personal use or sale.
- Constructive possession: An individual can be arrested for possessing a controlled substance, even when it is not on his person. If it can be shown that the drugs were on the suspect’s property and that he or she had knowledge of the presence of the drugs and the ability to control the drugs, they can be charged.
- Possession with intent to sell/delivery: The same criteria is required for intent to distribute, along with a showing that the individual had an affirmative intent to sell to another party, which can be shown by circumstantial evidence such as a possessing a large quantity of the controlled substance.
- Manufacturing or Cultivating: Depending on the type of controlled substance the suspect is making, charges of manufacturing or cultivating a controlled substance may be given. If the drug requires a chemical process in order to create and produce the drug, like ecstasy or cocaine, the suspect will be charged with manufacturing. Cultivating simply refers to the illegal growing, possessing or producing of controlled substances.
- Trafficking: The illegal distribution and sale of a controlled substance, depending on the quantity, will result in a drug trafficking charge. Charges of drug trafficking are much more severe than possession, as it is a felony. The court will look at the type of drugs involved, the location in which they were being distributed, who the intended demographic for sale was, and how much they were intending to sell.
On the state level, Illinois carries a wide variety of punishments for drug crimes. While simple possession can carry penalties of at least one year or more in state prison, depending on the amount in possession, drug distribution can carry charges up to 60 years or more, with additional fines and accompanying charges. On a federal level, punishment tends to be more severe, as mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines have been enacted in order to punish high-level drug dealing operations.
If you have been charged with a drug crime, you can contest the charges by using any of the following legal defenses that apply:
- Illegal Search and Seizure – Under the 4th Amendment, citizens are protected from the government’s use of unlawful search and seizure. Many drug crimes are thrown out due to law enforcements illegal use of search and seizure, violating the citizens right to privacy, usually without probable cause.
- Lack of possession – When it comes to those constructive possession cases, lack of possession may be argued to show that the suspect did not know and had no reasonable knowledge to know the controlled substance was on their property or that they ever possessed it in the first place.
- Suppressing Evidence – There is a specific legal process as to how evidence gets entered into a case. Many times, evidence is improperly entered and in those cases, an attorney can ask for it to be excluded from a case. In drug cases, this can be important as to whether paraphernalia was involved at all.
- Settling – In the event that other possible legal defenses are not viable, the suspect can work with their attorney to get a reduced sentence if they collaborate with law enforcement.
Seriousness of Crimes When Compared with Other Offenses
To display the seriousness of the sentencing guidelines for drug offenses, compare the sentencing ranges to other crimes with the same penalties. Click here for a comprehensive list of penalties associated with drug crimes.
- Class X felony – You can get charged with a class X felony by selling 15 grams of cocaine or heroin which results in 6 to 30 years in prison. This is the same penalty as aggravated criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, armed robbery, and attempted murder.
- Class 1 felony – If you sell anywhere between 5 to 15 grams of cocaine or 3 to 15 grams of heroin. It comes with 4 to 15 years in prison, as does criminal sexual assault, residential burglary, and robbery.
- Class 2 felony – Selling under a gram of cocaine or heroin, which is punishable by 3-7 years in prison. The same sentence applies to aggravated criminal sexual abuse, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, and burglary.
Marijuana Possession in Chicago
The number of arrests for possession of cannabis in Chicago made it necessary for the court system to provide alternatives to jail. Cook County courts offer a deferred prosecution to drug offenders, called Drug School. The program is run by the Cook County State’s Attorney and requires 10 to 20 hours of drug education. The Drug School Act was written specifically for the Cook County State’s Attorney because of the high volume of cases. The Act states that incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders with families breaks the family unit and that they are in need of alternatives to incarceration such as counseling or treatment. If the defendant completes Drug School, the case will be dismissed. The record of arrest and the case number can also be expunged at a later date. However, this lenient alternative is not automatic and is only available when the prosecution agrees to it.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you or someone you know has been accused of a drug crime, there are a number of defenses we can discuss. I have witnessed firsthand how scary these times can be for an individual and feel that whether guilty or innocent, every citizen should have their voice heard.
Please do not hesitate to contact Sami Azhari any time, day or night, weekday or weekend, to discuss your claim. Feel free to call Sami directly at (312) 626 – 2871 or (847) 255 – 2100. No commitment is required and the consultation is always free. We can help you establish the best possible legal defense for your case.