There are a variety of drug related charges that you can be arrested for under Illinois and U.S. Federal drug law. This includes drug possession, possession with the intent to distribute, drug trafficking, drug manufacturing or drug-related conspiracy charges. Based on the crime you commit, the type of substance and the amount, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. Felony convictions are more serious and usually result in a jail sentence of more than one year with serious offenses having a mandatory minimum sentence and longer jail time, while misdemeanor charges carry a penalty of up to one year in jail and usually no mandatory minimum sentence.

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Types of Federal/Illinois Drug Charges and Penalties

Drug Possession

One of the most common crimes that people are charged with is drug possession. Under federal and state drug law it is a crime to possess illegal drugs and narcotics, which are often referred to as “controlled substances”; this includes marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine or any other regulated substances. If you have been charged with possession the prosecution will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew the drugs were illegal, and that you had known the drugs were there and intended to use or control them. Control of a substance means that a person can have personal control, where the drug is found in a pocket or other manner of personal custody, while physical control means the drug could be in their car, home, bag, etc. Again, the charge will vary depending on the type of substance and amount in your possession.

For Example:

  • In Illinois, possession of less than 2.5 grams of marijuana is considered a Class C Misdemeanor and can result in up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500;
  • Possession of 2000-5000 grams of marijuana is considered a Class 2 Felony and can result in a fine up to $25,000 and/or 3-7 years in a State Penitentiary;
  • Possession of 100-400 grams of heroin, cocaine, morphine, methamphetamine or LSD is considered a Felony and can result in a fine of up to $200,000 (or the street value of the substance you possessed) and/or 6-30 years in a State Penitentiary.

While many people typically consider possession to be a minor offense, the state of Illinois considers it a very serious offense, which could result in a considerable amount of fines and jail time.

Possession with Intent to Distribute

A crime that is similar to possession is possession with intent to distribute. In this case the defendant is being accused of not only possessing a controlled substance, but also intending to sell, deliver or provide this substance to another person; this is considered a more serious offense and will result in harsher penalties. Many factors contribute to proving that it was the accused’s intent to distribute, such as the packaging of the drugs.

If drugs are being kept in small units such as baggies or balloons, this could support a prosecutor’s argument that these drugs were being pre-packaged to sell. Another important factor is where the drugs were found and what paraphernalia was found with them. For example, if the drugs were found in individual baggies with large amounts of cash or scales, or if drugs were found in a person’s pocket while they were standing in a known drug dealing location, these could all support a prosecutor’s argument. Also, keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if the drugs were going to be sold for cash or just distributed freely, the intent to distribute is what matters. Like possession, the punishment for possession with intent to distribute depends on the type of substance and the amount.

For Example:

  • Possession with intent to distribute Schedule V controlled substances, which are usually considered medicines that have small amounts of specific narcotics, is considered a Class 3 Felony is punishable by a period of incarceration of 2-5 years and a fine of $75,000.
  • In contrast, possession with intent to distribute 100-399 grams of heroin is considered a Class X Felony and is punishable by a period of incarceration of 9-40 years and you may be fined up to $500,000 or the full street value of the substance, whichever is greater. Also, if convicted of a Class X Felony you will be sentenced to at least the minimum period of incarceration and be ineligible for conditional discharge, probation or periodic imprisonment.

Drug Manufacturing

Manufacturing or cultivating controlled substances is illegal under state and federal drug law with the exception to marijuana in some states. However, the manufacture of marijuana is still criminalized in Illinois, thus this exception does not apply. In order to be convicted of manufacturing or intending to manufacture a controlled substance prosecutors must prove possession and intent to manufacture. So, for example, being in possession of marijuana seeds may not prove intent to manufacture, but if the seeds were found in conjunction with specialized heat lamps and other equipment it could potentially be proven that there was intent to manufacture. However, it is possible to be in possession of certain chemicals or supplies that can be used to make illegal drugs, but also have other legitimate uses that require a permit.

If you are convicted of cultivating 20-50 marijuana plants in Illinois, it is considered a Class 3 Felony punishable with a minimum sentence of 2 years and maximum of 5 years and a fine of $25,000.

Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking is the selling, transportation and illegal import of illicit controlled substances, such as cocaine, heroine or methamphetamines, as well as, prescription drugs like pain killers.

Drug trafficking is one of the most serious drug related offenses and is always considered a felony. In Illinois, a key fact the prosecution will look at in a trafficking case is whether or not you knowingly brought a controlled substance across state lines into Illinois with intent to manufacture or deliver.

If convicted of trafficking between 500-4999 grams of a cocaine mixture, and it is your first offense, the penalty is no less than 5 years and no more than 40 years of incarceration. if death or serious bodily injury occurred, no less than 20 years and no more than life in prison, and a fine of no more than $5 million if an individual or $25 million if not an individual.

If you are convicted of trafficking 5 kilograms or more of a cocaine mixture, and it is your first offense, the penalty is a minimum of 10 years incarceration and a maximum of a life sentence. If death or serious bodily injury occurred, the minimum increases to 20 years with the same maximum, and a fine of no more than $10 million if an individual or $50 million if not an individual.

Drug Conspiracy Charges

A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to do something illegal. Drug conspiracy is an extremely ambiguous offense, and it is possible to be charged with drug conspiracy without ever having possessed, bought or sold illegal drugs. Since it matters little to prosecutors if you actually planned to commit the crime, and there are few actions that the accused actually needs to take it, it’s possible for anyone to find himself or herself facing these serious charges.

To be convicted on a drug conspiracy charge, the accused must have, at the very least, some understanding that a criminal act is being committed and that they are knowingly involved. Drug conspiracy, in Illinois, is considered a Class X Felony, which includes a fine of no more than $500,000, 6-30 years of incarceration and requires the convicted to forfeit anything that was obtained as part of the conspiracy and any interests that influenced the conspiracy.

Information on Federal and Illinois State Drug Law

If you are arrested and convicted of possessing illegal drugs or possessing illegal drugs with the intent to sell within 1500 feet of a school, church, public park or movie theater, the court may double the fine and sentence. Similarly, if you are in possession of a firearm at the time of the drug arrest, and are convicted, the court may also double the fine and sentence.

Furthermore, there are increased penalties for use of a firearm during the commission of the offense. If a firearm is used during the commission of a drug offense, 15 years can be added to your sentence. If the firearm is discharged during the commission of a drug offense, 20 years can be added to the sentence. Finally, if a firearm is discharged and causes death or injury during the commission of a drug offense, 25 years or life in prison can be added to the sentence.