Articles Tagged with Chicago drug crimes attorney

esteban-lopez-234052-copy-300x200In June of 2018, Chicago police discovered over 1,500 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop. The street value of the drugs is just over $10 million. The use of a drug dog from the narcotics unit helped police make this discovery.

The vehicle was stopped for suspicion of trafficking narcotics, which is why the drug dog was on hand. The drugs were en route to Chicago from California. The driver was charged with possession of over 5,000 grams of cannabis. Now, many people are raising issue with the legitimacy of the traffic stop.

The Issue

esteban-lopez-234052-copy-300x200Drug crimes are one of the most prevalent crimes committed in Chicagoland and across the world. You should be informed of the laws that dictate the ones in your own hometown. More often than not, the line between a misdemeanor charge and a felony is very thin. When it comes to drugs, even if you have access to Illinois drug statutes, it can all be confusing. There are cases in which the lines are quite blurred and you may not be sure of what consequences you will be facing in your near future.

Possession

Within the plentiful variety of possession charges one can face, it is obviously highly dependent on what substance it is that has been found. Whether or not if you are a first or repeat offender is also a major factor in the eyes of the court.

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?

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.

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.

Package Delivery 1The legalization of recreational marijuana in several states over the last few years has created a business opportunity that some people are finding difficult to resist. Non-commercial cultivators in states like Colorado that have legalized recreational marijuana have little legal regulation, and even less oversight, and with prices for their product being between 300% to 500% higher in states where the possession and use of marijuana for recreational purposes is still illegal, there is a huge incentive for these gray-area cultivators to export their crops across state lines.

Case Study

Illinois resident Ryan Bailey was arrested on January 7 by Chicago police after receiving a seven pound package of marijuana sent to him from a nonexistent shipping company in Aurora Colorado. Before moving to Chicago, Mr. Bailey had lived in Colorado, where he and his wife had run both a growing facility and dispensary where he got in legal trouble for running a much larger operation than was allowed without commercial permits. Prior to his January 7th arrest, Mr. Bailey was arrested previously when the Chicago police department raided his home in Northwest Chicago and found over 40 pounds of marijuana. In both cases the raids were set in motion by UPS employees who reported delivering packages that smelled strongly of marijuana.

If you are convicted of a Chicago drug crime, whether misdemeanor or felony, you face a lengthy prison sentence and hefty fines. If you are not an American citizen, whether an illegal immigrant or a lawful permanent resident, you also face the possibility of being deported.

5748419806_789a66c65f

Deportation for Drug Crimes Conviction

The United States federal code allows for the deportation of any alien convicted of conspiracy to violate, attempted violation or violation of a state controlled substance law (other than a single offense of possession of less than 30 grams of personal use marijuana) that relates to a federally banned substance. The federal code outlines specific substances that are considered controlled substances that could lead to deportation.

This is an important distinction in the law. State and federal law are not always in lock-step regarding what is considered a controlled substance. If an illegal immigrant is convicted of a drug crime under state law, and the controlled substance is not included under the federal controlled substance list, the illegal immigrant is not eligible for deportation.

The United States Supreme Court recently made another distinction under the law. In order to be a deportable offense, the underlying charge must specifically state the controlled substance banned under federal law. In Mellouli v. Lynch, the defendant was convicted of misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. The paraphernalia in this case was a sock that contained four unnamed pills. Neither the initial charge nor the ultimate plea agreement made specific reference to the controlled substance that was in the defendant’s possession at the time of arrest.

The court ruled that in order to trigger the deportation law, it must be made clear at some point what federally banned controlled substance the defendant had in his possession. Laws must be taken at face value, meaning when the court is interpreting a vague or otherwise ambiguous law, it cannot consider what it thinks the drafters of the law meant. They may only be guided by the literal letter of the law.

Based on prior rulings, the court ruled that they must take the conviction at face value and could not be held responsible for looking into the underlying facts. Thus, police and forensic reports may have indicated what pills were in the defendant’s sock, and reading those reports would have allowed the court to check the federal controlled substance law to see if the drug was included. But that is the responsibility of the police and prosecutor, not the court. Without the substance named, the court ruled the defendant could not be deported.

In terms of defense of drug crimes, the case seemingly has little to no impact on the role of a criminal defense attorney. Yet the case is likely to make prosecutors look more closely at charging documents and plea agreements to ensure that all drug crimes cases are linked to federally banned substances, to ensure that the immigration department has an easier path to deportation, should it choose that option. In that sense, it makes it that much more important to retain the services of an experienced Chicago drug crimes attorney to help win an acquittal or dismissal of all charges, so that deportation is not an option.

Continue reading

A Villa Nova woman was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance after accepting delivery of almost 700 Xanax pills. The arrest was made through the combined efforts of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Service and the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office.

DuPage Possession of a Controlled Substance

Drug crimes require an aggressive defense, and that defense must begin immediately. In any criminal case, there are certain procedures law enforcement must follow in order to ensure that each defendant is afford a fair trial. One of the most important is the fundamental right against unlawful searches and seizures, and law enforcement’s motivation and justification for initiating a search is the most important aspect of any drug crimes defense.

tablets-193666_1280

In this case, there are a number of concerns regarding the arrest and subsequent search of the defendant’s residence.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol intercepted a package addressed to the defendant containing the Xanax. Undercover officers then proceeded to deliver the package to the defendant’s home and, when she accepted it, immediately arrested her for possession of a controlled substance. It is unclear whether the defendant did any more than simply accept the package; if that is all she did, it is very alarming that she was promptly arrested without any further action on her part.  Just because the package was addressed to her does not mean she knew it contained 700 Xanax pills and, in order to be charged with possession, the defendant’s possession must have been knowing. A roommate, friend or family member could have arranged for it to be delivered to her house for their own personal use, and simply addressed it to her so she could accept it. The defendant could not be said to be in possession of the Xanax if she had no idea what was in the package; in such a case, she would have just been in possession of a package delivered to her.

There is, of course, also the possibility that she had a valid prescription for the pills and got them filled out of the U.S. because she had no health insurance and it was cheaper to purchase them elsewhere than have the prescription filled at a local pharmacy.

Next is the search of defendant and her home. Police are able to conduct a search incident to arrest, without the need to first obtain a search warrant. The purpose of the search is to ensure officer safety and prevent the destruction of evidence. However, a search incident to arrest is limited, generally to an area within the defendant’s reach. Since the defendant accepted the package at her front door, law enforcement was legally permitted to search that area within her immediate reach; a search of the entire residence seems beyond the scope of her reach.

However, in this instance it appears that the defendant’s home was searched pursuant to a search warrant. A thorough review of the search warrant, as well as the evidence provided to the judge who issued the warrant, is very important. As I said, the fact that the pills were addressed to the defendant is not enough to prove that she knew what was in the package or had in any way arranged for it to be delivered to her. Because the package could have been sent, unbeknownst to her, by a friend, family member or roommate who planned to pick it up after it had been delivered, the fact that the police was able to get a search warrant is suspect. They could have delivered the package and conducted surveillance, or even gotten a warrant to tap her phone for a limited time to see if she made any calls regarding the pills, before being issued a warrant to search her home.

The circumstances surrounding law enforcement’s acquisition of the search warrant and their immediate arrest of the defendant would all need to be thoroughly examined in order to determine whether police violated the defendant’s right to be free from unlawful search and seizures.

Continue reading