Drug Crimes are taken very seriously in Illinois and range in severity from a Class C Misdemeanor (maximum 30 days jail) to a Class X Felony (6 to 30 years in prison). All drug crime convictions carry with it a mandatory minimum fine, potential jail sentence, and permanent criminal record. In many cases, having a drug conviction on your record can make a person ineligible for financial aid when attending college and limit their educational and employment opportunities.
For individuals charged with drug crimes, there are several programs that may be available to help keep a criminal conviction off your record. Even if you are charged with a felony drug offense, you may be eligible for special probation, drug court, or a deferred prosecution program run by the State’s Attorney’s Office that will eventually lead to a dismissal of the charges pending against you. To find out if you may be eligible for any of these programs, call my office and set up a free initial consultation
Possession of Marijuana
For first time offenders possessing an amount of cannabis more than 10 grams and less than 100 grams (approx. 3.5 ounces) they will be charged with misdemeanor possession. The class of misdemeanor you are charged with will be determined based on the weight of cannabis possessed as defined by 720 ILCS 550/4
(b) more than 10 grams but not more than 30 grams of
any substance containing cannabis is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor;
(c) more than 30 grams but not more than 100 grams of
any substance containing cannabis is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor; provided, that if any offense under this subsection (c) is a subsequent offense, the offender shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony;
(d) more than 100 grams but not more than 500 grams
of any substance containing cannabis is guilty of a Class 4 felony; provided that if any offense under this subsection (d) is a subsequent offense, the offender shall be guilty of a Class 3 felony;
(e) more than 500 grams but not more than 2,000 grams
of any substance containing cannabis is guilty of a Class 3 felony;
(f) more than 2,000 grams but not more than 5,000
grams of any substance containing cannabis is guilty of a Class 2 felony;
(g) more than 5,000 grams of any substance containing
cannabis is guilty of a Class 1 felony.
There are many ways to defend misdemeanor possession cases. These include challenging the probable cause that police officers used to conduct a search and challenging the possession of the cannabis. Often times, law enforcement will try to use the theory of “constructive possession” to meet the possession element of the offense. This basically means they found cannabis in your general vicinity and they suspect its yours. This concept of possession is susceptible to legal challenges brought by an experienced defense attorney at a hearing or trial.
If no legal defense is available in your case, there are several programs that may be available to get the charges against you dropped and eventually expunged. Depending on the county you are charged in, the State’s Attorney’s office might have a first time drug offender program that will lead to a dismissal of the charges upon completion of the program. For those individuals ineligible for any special programs, they may receive Court Supervision, which will eventually lead to a dismissal of the charges once all the terms of the supervision are satisfied. After completing the Court Supervision it may be possible to get your record expunged.
Civil Offense Cannabis Possession
Recent changes to the laws in Illinois have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis. A person possessing not more than 10 grams cannabis will no longer be charged with a crime, instead, they will be charged with a civil law violation punishable by a minimum fine of $100 and a maximum fine of $200. Further, the law provides that these cases will automatically be expunged off a person’s record
Felony Drug Crimes
There are several types of felony drug crimes in Illinois and most of them involve possessing or selling drugs other than cannabis. This includes prescription medications for which you are not prescribed. Possessing any of the following substances, regardless of amount, is considered a felony in Illinois
- Crack Cocaine
- Certain Prescription Medications
However, even possession of cannabis can be considered a felony in certain situations. If you possess more than 100 grams of cannabis on your first offense, or you are possessing 30-100 grams and have a prior conviction for possession of cannabis, your case will be eligible for felony enhancement. There are other ways that cannabis charge can be enhanced to a felony. The drug laws in Illinois are extremely complicated and if you are charged with a drug felony, you should seek the advice of an experienced attorney.
Defenses to Drug Crimes
Just because you are charged with a felony drug crime, does not mean you have to be convicted. There are several defense strategies that I employ when defending a felony drug crimes including:
- Challenging the Search – The 4th Amendment of the US Constitution protects us against illegal search and seizure. This means that a law enforcement officer must have probable cause prior to executing a search. It is often the case that officers will execute a search without probable cause and any evidence they find pursuant to that search can be suppressed.
- Challenging the Search Warrant – Even though a Judge signs off on a search warrant, that does not necessarily mean that warrant is valid. If the police used false information or misrepresentations to obtain that warrant, then any evidence collected when executing the warrant would be considered “Fruit of the poisonous tree” and ruled inadmissible in court.
- Challenging the Possession – Often times, Police Officers will try to use the legal theory of “constructive possession” to charge you with a felony drug crime. This means that Officers found drugs near you or in an area that you occupied. This theory of possession is not bullet proof and an experienced defense attorney will be able to challenge this at a hearing or trial.
Even if you do not have a defense to the charges, you may still be eligible to keep a felony conviction off your record. Depending on which county you are charged in, the State’s Attorney’s Office may have a special program available that will allow for the dismissal of charges once the program is complete. Additionally, there are also several forms of special probation available for felony drug charges that can lead to a dismissal of the charges once the probation is successfully completed.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug crime, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Our office has successfully handled hundreds of criminal cases in almost every county in Northern Illinois and we want to fight for you.