While a criminal charge of any kind is not a situation that should be taken lightly, being charged with possession of a controlled substance can bring your life to a screeching halt. If you find yourself facing a possession charge in the state of Illinois, the criminal defense attorneys at Dolci & Weiland may be able to help lessen your charges--or, in some cases, have your charges dropped altogether.
Illinois Controlled Substance Act: An Overview
Much like the rest of the states in the country, Illinois' Controlled Substance Act prohibits the possession of illegal drugs. Citing an intent "to provide a system of control over the distribution and use of controlled substances" and to "deter the unlawful and destructive use of controlled substances," the statute outlines in great detail what the state considers as a "controlled dangerous substance" and what penalties residents will face for possession of such drugs.
The Controlled Substance Act separates controlled dangerous substances into categories called "schedules," based on the potential harm the drug can cause.
Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous substances; these drugs have a high potential for abuse and either have no medical benefit or are completely unsafe for use. Such drugs include
- Hallucinogenic mushrooms
Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse as well as a high probability of physical or psychological dependence. These drugs include
Schedule III drugs have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule I or II substances but still maintain a moderate potential for physical dependence, as well as a high probability of psychological dependence. Controlled dangerous substances which appear in Schedule III include
- Anabolic steroids
Schedule IV controlled dangerous substances have a lower potential for abuse--as well as a lesser chance of physical or psychological dependence--than Schedule III drugs, and include
Schedule V drugs are the lowest level of controlled dangerous substances, with a low potential for abuse and a minimal chance of phycological or physical dependency. Substances listed in Schedule V include
- Cough syrup with low levels of codeine
Potential Penalties for Possession
As the Controlled Substance Act points out, "it is not the intent . . . to treat the unlawful user or occasional petty distributor of controlled substances with the same severity as the large-scale, unlawful purveyors and trafficker of controlled substances." As such, the punishment that you may face following a charge of possession of a controlled dangerous substance varies greatly on the type of substance you are found to be in possession of, as well as the quantity of the substance that you possess.
Schedule I and II Possession Penalties
Possession of a drug listed in Schedule I or Schedule II is the most serious possession offenses that one can face in Illinois, and is a felony charge. Possession of common Schedule I or Schedule II drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, morphine, and methamphetamine can result in the following punishments based on the amount of the drug you possess.
- 15 grams or less: 1 to 3 years of incarceration, and/or a fine of up to $25,000 (Class 4 felony charge)
- 15 to 99 grams: 4 to 15 years of incarceration, and/or a fine of up to $200,000 (Class 1 felony charge)
- 100 to 399 grams: 6 to 30 years of incarceration, and/or a fine of up to $200,000 or the street value of the drugs, whichever is higher (Class 1 felony charge)
- 400 to 899 grams: 8 to 40 years of incarceration, and/or a fine of up to $200,000 or the street value of the drugs, whichever is higher (Class 1 felony charge)
- 900+ grams: 10 to 50 years of incarceration, and/or a fine of up to $200,000 or the street value of the drugs, whichever is higher (Class 1 felony charge)
Changes in marijuana laws around the country spurred a new statute in Illinois which decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis (marijuana). Possession of larger amounts of the drug, however, is still a criminal offense. The penalties for possession of marijuana are governed by Illinois' Cannabis Control Act. If you have been charged with possession of marijuana, penalties for conviction include the following.
- 10 grams or less: civil violation with a fine of up to $200
- 11 to 30 grams (1st offense): misdemeanor charge with up to 1 year in jail and/or fine of up to $2,500
- 11 to 30 grams (2nd offense): felony charge with 1 to 6 years in prison and fine of up to $25,000
- 31 to 500 grams(1st offense): felony charge with 1 to 6 years in prison and fine of up to $25,000
- 31 to 500 grams (2nd offense): felony charge with 2 to 10 years in prison and fine of up to $25,000
- 501 to 2,000 grams: felony charge with 2 to 10 years in prison and fine of up to 25,000
- 2001 to 5,000 grams: felony charge with 3 to 14 years in prison and fine of up to $25,000
- 5001 or more grams: felony charge with 4 to 30 years in prison and fine of up to $25,000
Defenses to a Charge of Drug Possession
If you are facing a possession charge in Illinois, it's important to seek legal help from an attorney who has experience defending drug charges in the state. A seasoned criminal defense attorney may be able to assert a defense in your case that could lessen the penalties that you face for conviction of your charge. In some cases, these defenses could even lead to your case being dismissed altogether. Common defenses to drug possession charges include the following.
Fourth Amendment Violations
The most common defense to a drug possession charge is that the officer who arrested you for possession of a controlled substance violated the Fourth Amendment in some way. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees anyone in the country freedom from unlawful search and seizure by a police officer.
In order to stop an individual, a police officer must have probable cause that the person was either committing a crime or had committed a crime previously. In a traffic stop, for example, a police officer must believe that you were speeding, failing to stop for a red light, driving under the influence, or some other violation. If you are stopped by a police officer who has no justifiable basis for conducting the stop, you may be able to assert a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.
Similarly, in order to perform a search of your person, home, or vehicle, an officer must have probable cause that you are in possession of something illegal. If you were searched for no reason or made to believe that you had no right to say no to the search, then you may be able to raise a Fourth Amendment defense.
Fourth Amendment defenses can be deadly to a prosecutor's case; a successful defense will result in an inadmissibility of the evidence that you were in possession of the drugs surrounding your charge. Without being able to present such evidence, a prosecutor might have no choice but to drop your charges.
Drugs Were Prescribed to You
Being in possession of prescription drugs like OxyContin or Percocet isn't always a crime; if you were prescribed these drugs by a physician or medical professional but received a possession charge anyway, your attorney can fight your charge and prove that you had a right to be in possession of these prescription drugs.
Drugs Belonged to Someone Else
A lot of people who face drug possession charges do so due to drugs that belong to someone other than them. Say, for example, that you are in college and borrow your roommate's car to drive to class. You are pulled over for speeding, and an officer conducts a search of the car and finds a baggie containing cocaine in the glove box of the vehicle. You had no idea that the cocaine was in the vehicle when you borrowed it to go to class; nevertheless, due to the legal theory of "constructive possession," you are charged with possession of the drug because you were driving the vehicle. What was supposed to be an uneventful day of classes just turned into a day that you received felony charge.
A criminal defense lawyer may be able to present evidence to rebut the theory of constructive possession and prove that the drugs that you were charged with possessing did not belong to you.
A police officer baits a person into committing a crime he wouldn't have committed otherwise.
Substance was Not a Drug
Just because a substance looks like a drug to the naked eye does not necessarily mean that it is an illegal substance. A large number of controlled substances can take the form of an ordinary, harmless substance. In order to prove that you are possessing the drug that the officer suspects the substance to be, the substance must be sent to a crime lab for a chemical analysis. In many cases, the person who performs the chemical test will need to come to trial to testify that the substance tested was indeed an illegal drug. If your attorney can prove a flaw in the drug analysis, or if it can be proven that the substance you were charged with possessing was not the illegal controlled substance that the arresting officer thought it was, your charges may be dropped.
Someone forced you to keep the drugs in your possession against your will by threats of force or harm.
Drugs Go Missing After Seizure
In order to provide a solid foundation proving that you were in possession of a controlled dangerous substance at the time of your arrest, the prosecutor in your case will likely produce the substance at trial to show the jury in order to prove your guilt. If the drug that you are charged with possessing goes missing after your arrest and cannot be found before trial, the prosecutor may not have enough evidence to prove that you are guilty of your charge. Seized drugs go missing more often than you may think, as they often move from one place to another quite a bit before being stored as evidence for trial. A criminal defense attorney may be able to assert the absence of these drugs as a defense to your case.
Illinois now allows the use of medical marijuana in order to treat certain debilitating medical conditions. If you suffer from cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson's disease, or one of the other dozens of conditions for which medical marijuana has been approved for treatment, then you may have a medical marijuana card that allows you to possess marijuana for alleviating your condition. If you have been charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana but can prove that you have a medical identification card allowing for such usage, then your charges may not be valid.
Facing a Drug Charge? Let Us Help You Today
If you recently received a charge of possession of a controlled substance in Illinois, the time to seek legal advice is now. Conviction of a possession charge could land you in prison for years and could earn you tens of thousands of dollars in fines. The punishment that you face following conviction doesn't end at criminal penalties; a felony on your criminal record can lead to an inability to find a place to live and difficulty in securing a job. The team of criminal defense attorneys at Dolci & Weiland are dedicated to helping you defend against the charges you face, and have decades of experience providing quality representation for individuals in similar situations. To schedule a consultation to speak with a member of our legal team about your charges, fill out an online consultation form or call the office closest to you today. For our DuPage location, call (630) 261-9098, or for our Chicago office, call (312) 238-9007.