Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

esteban-lopez-234052-copy-300x200Although drug crimes have the potential to either be a felony or a misdemeanor, it is when you are charged with a felony that you will most want to present some sort of defense for yourself. As you may know, your trial must begin within 120-160 days of your arrest, which may be giving you a false sense of time. This is due to the fact that you must file your challenge against your conviction within 30 days or else you might miss the opportunity to seize your right to appeal completely.

Drug Offenses

According to research, the following is a list of the top three felony drug offenses in Illinois:

maique-madeira-256088-copy-300x200Although most ordinary people talk about “drug crime” as if it were one giant part of criminal law, there are many important distinctions between different drug-related crimes. One of them is the difference between drug dealing and drug trafficking. Let us take the case of David Price, who faced life imprisonment after being found guilty of running an illicit drug empire.

Drug dealing often happens on the streets when middlemen and low-level distributors try to offload the controlled drugs onto the street. They are the people who sell on a one-to-one basis or who provide small shopping facilities for drugs. This is a different crime from trafficking, which often includes international routes. The failure to make these distinctions clear has meant that many people are serving sentences that are longer than they would ordinarily be if the right procedure was followed.

Why is the Distinction Between Dealing and Trafficking so Important?

esteban-lopez-234052-copy-300x200Like every other state, Illinois is debating whether or not to make recreational marijuana legal, even after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made it a priority for federal prosecutors to enforce drug laws. According to Sessions, marijuana is causing serious health issues to citizens and anyone found in possession of it should be convicted.

However, Illinois leaders do not agree with Sessions. State Representative Kelly M. Cassidy and state Senator Heather Stean have plans to come up with revised statute in the legislature’s new session to permit recreational marijuana. They have been carrying out town halls and meeting with constituents and key stakeholders to come up with a bill.

The first approach of making recreational marijuana legal in Illinois might take place in March 2018 in Cook County. In the same month, an advisory referendum will ask voters whether adult use of cannabis should be lawful. It will be placed in the primary ballot. It is crucial to note that there is still a lengthy process. The vote is part of the strategy by state-wide legalization, hence not binding or affecting the current law.

dan-gold-240112-copy-169x300The use of dogs for gathering police evidence has been debated at the highest levels of the criminal justice system. The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals recently considered the matter and made a ruling that could potentially have far-reaching consequences.

The key issue was the extent to which the law enforcement agencies should be able to rely on K-9 partners when making a decision as to whether to search a person or not. There are vehicle sniff directives for law enforcement agencies in place even without this trial.

In the case of Lex, the dog was not considered to be adequately trained or talented enough to be able to make a decision either way. The case was brought by Larry Bentley Jr. He had been sentenced to 20 years in jail for being found in possession of controlled substances.

esteban-lopez-234052-copy-300x200The Chicago legislature has recently put laws in place that allow farmers to grow industrial hemp. This is a replacement of the old regime under which such actions were barred. A system of permits ensures that issues of public safety and good conduct are taken into consideration. Hemp belongs to the family of the cannabis plant. Although it can be used as a narcotic in sufficiently strong concentrations, it is also used to make textiles as well as paper-based industrial products. Farmers could potentially earn an income from this plant that is also on the banned list of substances. The old law was caught between encouraging genuine commercial activity and preventing the large-scale production of potential narcotics. The initial plan was to allow the cultivation for research purposes and then move on to commercial production for non-narcotic usage.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is intimately involved in all the proceedings so as to ensure appropriate oversight. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) previously classified hemp as a Schedule 1 Drug. That meant that farms could not legally grow it, certainly not on an industrial scale. The classification was based on the findings that the drug had a high potential for abuse. Those who dispute the classification argue that hemp contains only trace elements of the offending substance known as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is indeed the psychoactive chemical that is known to create a high for marijuana users. Over time, a number of states (now numbering 16) have gradually legalized the production of hemp for commercial purposes. By 2014, Illinois had put legislation in place to allow for the growing of hemp by State Universities and the Department of Agriculture.

The Narcotic with Huge Potential

get-budding-72791-copy-300x200The sale of marijuana for medical purposes is a hot topic in legal circles, following a number of reform efforts. That is no different in Chicago where laws are in place to ensure that people can access much-needed relief whilst at the same time protecting the rest of the public from some of the worst effects of Marijuana. This remains a controlled substance and citizens should not assume that they can trade in it without any legal consequences. When the law was passed allowing medical marijuana, there was an upsurge in purchases. The first week alone saw sales of over $200,000 and covering over 800 patients. Each ounce costs about $450 and during that heady week, over 400 ounces were sold.

The legal issues at stake are always interesting to both prosecutors and defense attorneys. At the heart of it is the difference between freedom of choice and the need to put controls on substances that have proven to be harmful. The law was always playing a delicate game that matched the needs of the wider community to those of the individual. Whereas it seemed heartless to leave someone to suffer in pain, it was equally heart-wrenching to see people’s lives being destroyed by marijuana. So far it seems that the legislative regime has managed to hit the right spots on this delicate balancing line.

A Long Journey Toward Legalization

IMG_0013_CCThe rules relating to controlled substances in Chicago are found within 720 ILCS 570 or the Illinois Controlled Substances Act. Because the offense of unauthorized prescription drug possession touches on the ability to self-medicate; it has remained one of the more controversial aspects of Chicago law. Interestingly, there has been an uptick in arrests for the possession of medications that would otherwise be perfectly legal except for the important absence of a valid prescription. Unfortunately, the zeal with which these offenses are prosecuted has meant that there are some innocents who have gotten caught up in the melee.

Currently there are nearly two million US residents who abuse prescription drugs in one way or the other. In areas where there are no stringent enforcement structures, it is possible to go unnoticed despite the risk to public health. Some of the more high-profile arrests for illegal possession of prescription drugs include the conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Distinguishing Legitimate from Illegal Use of Prescription Drugs

BRMHS_classroom_wall_2Questioning the Rationale and Practicality of the Current Legal Regime

The first principle of the law in the USA is equality. That may not quite square up to the enhanced sentencing regime for designated drug free zones in Chicago. The current trends owe their origins partly to the 1980s when the super-predator ethos started to take hold in the echelons of legislative assemblies. It was fashionable to be tough on crime. As a result many people are now serving ridiculously long sentences for relatively minor drug offenses. President Barack Obama has used his discretion in pardoning some of these offenders. A less shocking but equally serious manifestation of this fear of crime is called enhanced sentencing. The regime was designed to tackle those areas that were at a very high risk of becoming drug dens. In effect, people who committed drug offenses within these localities would eventually face penalties that were stiffer than those who committed crimes in the non-designated areas.

The principles of natural justice do not quite square up to these situational aggravating features given that an offender has limited control over the geography of the USA or how the authorities decide to designate drug free zones. Supporters of the regime argue that it makes sense when you consider the actual zones that are affected. These include schools and drug recovery institutions. The rationale is that the hardened criminals should not be allowed to exploit vulnerable people without serious consequences. In any case, the same principle has been used to develop aggravating features for burglary. The offender may not know that the home is occupied when he or she decides to steal from it, but the fact that it is occupied will lead to a harsher sentence. Illinois is one of the areas that has fully embraced the school zoning criteria for enhanced sentencing.

Macro_cannabis_budEven as some states such as Colorado move to deregulate some previously controlled substances or drugs, Chicago still grapples with the offense of Marijuana possession. At the moment, the state has decriminalized possession but not the actual smoking of pot, which in itself represents a dangerous contradiction. People buy and secure marijuana (often at a great cost) in order to smoke it. Allowing possession whilst banning consumption seems to be one of those incidents in which lawmakers are just too stubborn to admit that they may have made a mistake. Instead they are being dragged screaming and scratching into reality. The consequence for the public is a sequential law that is often riddled with inconsistencies.

The state of the law at the moment must be confusing the potheads and maybe that it is how it was intended. For the defense attorney things are much clearer. Although the client may be arrested for smoking, it is usually the possession that begins the chain of offending that is of interest to the prosecutor. Some localities like Cook County have used prosecutorial policy and discretion to bring more rationality to the law. Hence arrests are made for first and second time offenders but it is rare to make it to the court unless there are other pending matters that the prosecutor wishes to deal with as the defendant is in custody. The Chicago police department also routinely fines those who are caught holding pot. This policy makes sense since everybody knows that you only hold pot when you intend to smoke it or resell it to someone else or hold it for another form of exchange.

The Mechanics and Intentions of the Law

800px-thumbnailRecently, President Barack Obama pardoned a number of people who had been given mandatory sentences for drug trafficking that many in the legal profession considered to be excessive. More worrisome was the notion that the judge in a court case lost the right of discretion at sentencing because the mandatory sentencing law had already effectively predetermined the outcome of that phase of a criminal trial. The law had the tragic effect of sending people to prison for virtual lifetimes for the possession of a few grams of cocaine, when convicted rapists and murderers were being given much shorter sentences. What became clear was a need for sentencing reform with reference to mandatory penalties. Illinois is considered to be one of the more liberal or progressive on this issue, but there are still contentious points.

Status of the Law in Illinois

According to the Controlled Substances Act, it is a criminal offense to manufacture, possess or deliver a controlled or counterfeit substance. The law applies to analogs of controlled substances. In order to deal with the generic drugs that are extracted from an original formula, the act also affects those substances that are intended for human consumption but are listed within Schedule I and II of the said act. The law was designed to have a sliding scale of punishments that was heaviest for those actors that engaged in illicit trafficking as well as those who headed the profit chains for those activities. The rationale was that those who benefitted from the drug trade were somehow insulated from its consequences and the relatively lenient punishments meted out to them emphasized the impression that they were not as culpable as those who actually used or distributed the drugs.