The Fundamentals of Drug Crime Charges

Different Murder Cases

In 2014 alone, there were more than 100,000 arrests for drug-related crimes in Illinois. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Chicago is a high intensity drug trafficking area. Many people in our community have been arrested for drug crimes. There are a wide variety of drug crimes, which include everything from smoking marijuana to trafficking vast amounts of narcotics.

As Chicago drug crime defense lawyers, we want you to know what the process is like. Knowing the procedure can help you protect your rights. In some cases, understanding what you are dealing with may keep you out of jail.

Controlled Substances

In Illinois, there are a few different laws that govern the use of drugs. Our state has the Controlled Substance Act. This criminalizes the knowing possession, manufacture, and delivery of drugs. The state of Illinois ties its drug schedule to the federal schedule published by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The Controlled Substance Act bans a wide variety of recreational drugs, including opioids, hallucinogens, and depressants. The authorities seek to limit certain drugs because they have limited medical use, and leave people vulnerable to abuse and addiction.

This law also regulates prescription medication. When someone is prescribed a certain drug, they are not allowed to sell it, give it, or otherwise transfer it to someone else. Context matters when it comes to drug laws.

It is important to keep in mind that the Controlled Substance Act does not govern the use of marijuana. Illinois has the Cannabis Control Act. This law separates marijuana from other drugs, which means that it has its own degrees of punishment.

Trafficking vs. Possession

Drug trafficking is punished much more severely than simple possession. According to the law, if you have larger quantities of a controlled substance or marijuana, you have committed a more serious crime. Possessing larger quantities of a drug is perceived as more harmful to society because you are affecting more people.

Even if someone intends to use all the substances themselves, having a certain amount of a drug may land the person in more trouble. The police will also consider other indications of distribution. For example, scales, small bags, and large amounts of money may indicate that someone is trafficking drugs.

When the police catch someone with between 15 and 99 grams of heroin, cocaine, or morphine, the guilty party may under some circumstances go to jail for not less than 4 years and not more than 15. When someone is found with between 100 grams and 399 grams of those drugs, they might go to jail for between 6-30 years. The punishments get more and more severe in relation to the quantity of the drug.

What the Prosecution Must Prove

In order to successfully convict someone, the prosecution must prove the following:

  • The identity of the substance in question
  • That someone knowingly possessed the substance
  • That the substance was in their immediate and exclusive control

Proving the identity of the substance is fairly straightforward. The prosecution or police will run chemical tests to show that the white powder (for instance) in someone’s car is cocaine. If they cannot definitively prove what something is, then the accused may go free. Part of this process also involves demonstrating the weight of the substance to the court as well.

You should remember that trying to sell counterfeit drugs may result in the same charges as selling real drugs. This means that if you convince someone that oregano is marijuana, you could still be in trouble for selling marijuana. The authorities might have to search your texts or other sources to prove that you intended to sell a look-a-like substance such as this.

The next step is ‘knowing possession’. If the authorities get a warrant to search someone’s computer and they find an indication that they messaged someone else about the drug, that may be enough to establish that the person knew about it.

Finally, the prosecution has to prove that someone actually possessed the drugs. This can be divided into two different categories.

The first category involves the actual physical control of the drug. When the police find drugs in someone’s bag or pocket, that is a strong indicator that they are in possession of the drug.

The second category is called ‘constructive possession’. This means that in some circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that only certain people had access to or control over the drugs. For example, imagine a scenario where the police search someone’s one-bedroom apartment. Even if he or she is not at the location at the time, the authorities may find drugs in that person’s couch. Only so many people have access to that area. The prosecution may be able to demonstrate that rationally, only one person knew about this, and prove possession in that manner.

There are some ambiguities in the law, however. It is possible that more than one person could possess the same drugs. For example, when the police search a car, they might find drugs in the trunk. If there are two people in the car, the authorities may not be able to prove that it was in possession of both people or which person possessed the drugs. This may be a viable defense.

If you are charged with a drug crime, it is imperative that you hire a lawyer. Drug crimes are very serious matters, and the police are almost certainly not necessarily on your side. One of the best ways to avoid jail time (or see reduced jail time) is to retain the services of a reputable attorney.

Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC is ready to fight for you today. If you have any questions about drug crime charges, call us at (312) 644-0444 to discuss your case with Chicago drug crime defense lawyers.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : May 26, 2023