Drug Defense Attorney Servicing the Greater Chicago Area
You Need an Experienced CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY to Defend and Challenge Against Drug Charges
Every year, millions of people are arrested in the United States for drug crimes. Controlled substances are substances that are obtained through a prescription from a doctor or have been determined to be illegal and of no medical use by federal or state law. Drugs that are controlled are monitored carefully because of the potential for addiction, misuse, abuse and harm to the general public and the potential for drug trafficking, the making of illegal money and the potential for violence that goes along with drug sales.
States have different classifications and penalties based on different controlled substances. The fines and punishments that go along with the use, possession, manufacturing, distribution, trafficking, producing and delivery of controlled substances differs at both state and federal levels. On the federal level, drug offenses generally result in heavier sentences. That is because oftentimes charges such as drug trafficking involve the moving of drugs across state lines. On a state level, drug possession charges are seen more often and generally carry less harsh sentences.
TYPES OF DRUG CRIMES
Possession of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, LSD, ketamine, Xanax, oxycontin and other prescription pills is a crime in Illinois. The possession of up to an ounce of cannabis has been legalized, but the sale, delivery or growing of marijuana is still a crime. Criminal charges stemming from possession, sales, distribution, or trafficking of drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and prescription drugs without a prescription are felonies. Felonies carry with more severe penalties than misdemeanor offenses, including prison (over one year), and can include large fines.
How severity you are sentenced will also depend on what schedule the drug is categorized under according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Drugs are categorized under one of five schedules that are determined based on whether they have any medical benefit or potential for abuse or addiction. Schedule I drugs are defined as those with no accepted medical benefit and have a high potential for abuse and addiction such as: heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, and peyote. Schedule II drugs have a high possibility for abuse and may lead to psychological or physical dependence, such as: methamphetamine, cocaine, methadone, Demerol, OxyContin, Fentanyl, Adderall and other prescription drugs.
If you are charged with a drug offense, prosecutors will determine the level of severity based on what they allege you are doing with the drugs. Acts involving drugs fall into the following categories:
- Possession: If a person is found with drugs but wasn’t seen in the act of selling or delivering, they will likely be charged with possession. Based on factors such as the weight of the drugs, how the drugs are packaged, whether large amounts of money are recovered with the drugs and whether other items such as scales and baggies a person may be charged with simple possession, or possession with intent to sell. Straight possession is the most frequent drug offense that a person can be arrested for. This happens when the person knowingly and intentionally possesses a controlled substance and has a sufficient quantity to satisfy personal use or sale.
- Constructive possession: You can be charged with the possession of drugs even if you are not actually carrying the drugs. This is the concept of constructive possession. If the drugs were found on the suspect’s property and that person has knowledge the drugs are present, they can be charged.
- Possession with intent to sell/delivery: As I mentioned above, prosecutors look at factors such as the weight of the drugs, how the drugs are packaged, whether large amounts of money are recovered with the drugs and whether other items such as scales and baggies to determine whether a person will be charged with possession or possession with intent to sell. Possession with intent to sell and delivery carry greater penalties than simple possession. Law enforcement would rather punish the drug dealer than the user.
- Manufacturing or Cultivating: Depending on the type of drug the individual is alleged to be growing or making, charges of manufacturing or cultivating a controlled substance can be brought. If the production of the drug is a chemical, like heroin, ecstasy or cocaine, the person will be charged with manufacturing. Cultivating, on the other hand, means the illegal growing, possessing or producing of controlled substances such as growing cannabis.
- Trafficking: I have represented many individuals who have been charged with drug trafficking. Drug trafficking is the illegal transportation, distribution and sale of a illegal drugs. Drug trafficking, on the state and federal level, carries with it, some of the harshest penalties related to drug crimes. Prosecutors will look at the type of drugs involved, how the drugs are transported, the level of sophistication involved in the transportation and trafficking of the drugs, the number of people involved in the operation, the distance and scope of the distribution ring, who the intended drugs were meant to be sold to, how much money was involved in the transactions and the quantity of how much the person was intending to sell.
DRUG CRIME PENALTIES
In Illinois, drug crimes carry a wide range of sentences and punishments. For example, a simple possession charge may carry a penalty of more than one-year prison. Drug distribution and trafficking charges carry possible penalties of 60 years or more, with heavy fines and accompanying charges.
In my experience, federal prosecutors do not charge drug crimes unless there is evidence of trafficking, distribution, violence associated with the sale of drugs or deaths that result from the enterprise. If the United States Attorney takes on your case, the punishments tends to be more severe, as mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines have been enacted to punish high-level drug dealing operations.
DEFENSES TO DRUG CRIMES
If you have been charged with a drug crime, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you explore options to challenge, reduce or eliminate charges by arguing certain legal defenses in your case. Some of these defenses include:
- Illegal Search and Seizure – The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unlawful searches and seizures by law enforcement. I have had numerous drug crimes dismissed as a result of courts determining that law enforcement officers violated my client’s constitutional rights and illegally searched and seized property thereby violating their right to privacy without probable cause.
- Lack of possession – In constructive possession cases, lack of possession may be argued to show that the suspect did not know and had no reason to know the illegal drugs were on their property or that they ever possessed it in the first place.
- Suppressing Evidence – There is a particular legal method related to the way evidence is admitted in court and in a case. Sometimes, evidence is improperly handled, stored, transferred, analyzed or entered. In those cases, an attorney can ask for it to be excluded from a case.
- Negotiation with Prosecutors – In the event that other possible legal defenses are not viable, an experienced attorney can work with their client and prosecutors to get a reduced sentence if they cooperate with prosecutors, collaborate with law enforcement and save the taxpayers the time and energy of a trial and litigation.
SERIOUSNESS OF CRIMES WHEN COMPARED WITH OTHER OFFENSES
To display the gravity of the sentencing guidelines and possible penalties for drug offenses you can compare the sentencing ranges for drug offenses to other crimes with the same penalties. Click here for a comprehensive list of penalties associated with drug crimes.
- Class X felony – A conviction for the selling of 15 grams of cocaine or heroin is a class X felony which is non-probationable and carries with it a mandatory minimum of 6 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years in prison. Other class X offenses include aggravated criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, armed robbery, and attempted murder.
- Class 1 felony – A conviction for selling between 5 to 15 grams of cocaine or 3 to 15 grams of heroin is a class 1 felony. A class 1 felony is punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison. Other class 1 felonies include: criminal sexual assault, residential burglary, and robbery.
- Class 2 felony – A conviction for selling under a gram of cocaine or heroin is a class 2 felony 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.