When it comes to drug crimes in Illinois, police and prosecutors generally want to punish dealers and distributors more than users. Accordingly, the potential penalties for trafficking or distributing illegal drugs are often much harsher than the penalties for simply possessing these drugs. A possession charge could send you to jail for a few months or years but being convicted of drug trafficking will almost certainly result in a lengthy prison sentence and hefty fines. If you have been accused of drug crimes in Illinois, you need to understand the differences between drug trafficking and possession if you want to avoid the worst possible outcomes for your case.
At Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC, our Chicago drug defense lawyers have been representing people accused of drug crimes for more than 30 years. With more than 20,000 successful cases to our credit, we have earned a reputation for delivering exceptional results for our clients. If you have been accused of drug crimes in Illinois, we can defend you from abusive tactics used by police and prosecutors. We will work tirelessly to minimize the potential consequences of your arrest, whether that means getting the charges against you dropped, working out a plea agreement, or providing a vigorous defense at trial.
What Is Considered Drug Trafficking in Illinois?
The federal Controlled Substances Act generally uses the terms “trafficking” and “distribution” to mean the same thing. However, “trafficking” has a specific definition under the Illinois Controlled Substances Act. Under state law, trafficking refers to the act of bringing drugs into or out of the state for sale, while distribution strictly refers to the actual sale of drugs to another party. This distinction may be important to your case, as the penalties for distribution vs. trafficking can vary significantly.
Penalties for Drug Trafficking vs. Possession
The potential penalties for drug trafficking in Illinois depend somewhat on the drug in question and the amount of the drug you are caught with. In general, though, drug trafficking is a Class X felony, and the potential penalties include:
- 15-100 grams – 12-60 years in prison
- 100-400 grams – 18-80 years in prison
- 400-900 grams – 24-100 years in prison
- 900 grams or more – 30-120 years in prison
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to drug trafficking charges is that you could end up facing federal charges as well. Since Illinois defines trafficking as bringing drugs into or out of the state, any offense that meets that definition would also leave you vulnerable to federal trafficking charges, as federal agencies handle drug cases that cover multiple states.
The potential penalties for drug possession are more complicated because they can vary significantly depending on the amount of the drug and where the drug falls on Illinois’ schedule of controlled substances. For example, possessing Schedule I and Schedule II drugs like heroin, cocaine, MDMA, methamphetamine, and PCP carries much harsher penalties than possessing something like marijuana or some prescription drugs, which are lower down on the schedule of controlled substances.
For the sake of simplicity, the penalties for possessing Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substances generally break down like this:
- 15 grams or less – Class 4 felony, 1-3 years in prison
- 15-100 grams – Class 1 felony, 4-15 years in prison
- 100-400 grams – Class 1 felony, 6-30 years in prison
- 400-900 grams – Class 1 felony, 8-40 years in prison
- 900 grams or more – Class 1 felony, 10-50 years in prison
Potential Defenses to Drug Charges in Illinois
There are a few common defense strategies used in Illinois drug possession and trafficking cases, such as:
- The drugs do not belong to you, or you did not transport them – Drug possession and trafficking cases generally require the prosecution to prove you knew you had the drugs on you and that you intended to commit a crime. If someone else placed the drugs on your person or in your vehicle and you can prove it, you may be able to have your charges dropped.
- You were coerced into holding or transporting the drugs – If you were forced to transport or hold onto a controlled substance, you could probably have your charges dismissed if you can back up your claim.
- Entrapment – There have been cases where undercover officers encourage people to commit drug crimes. This is known as entrapment, and you may be able to have your charges dismissed if you can prove it.
- You were subject to an illegal search – Police and prosecutors need to follow certain guidelines when obtaining evidence in drug cases. If these rules were not followed, your attorney could ask for the evidence against you to be dismissed, which may cause the case against you to fall apart.