Drug and Narcotics Cases
The state of Illinois in general, and the city of Chicago in particular, has had a troubled history with drug-related crime, violence and gang activities. This is why drug or narcotics charges are taken very seriously by the authorities.
Illinois has some of the most stringent restrictions on narcotics and drugs compared to anywhere else in the U.S. The law-enforcement agencies, legislators and prosecution take the toughest measures to break the nexus of crime in the state that is funded by drug and narcotics money.
However, things get taken too far sometimes. The laws have been made so strict that innocent bystanders or unwitting people in the vicinity of the drug activity also get arrested and charged with aiding and abetting narcotics trafficking or delivery.State Legislation
The illegal drugs and narcotics are covered under 720 ILCS 570/100. The law was passed to recognize the rising threat of illegal drug consumption and trade in Illinois. It criminalizes the known possession, manufacture, trade or delivery of certain controlled substances within the state.
The controlled substances are identified by Schedule 1 to 5.
Schedule 1 drugs are those narcotics that have a severe psychoactive effect on the user. Drugs like Heroin, LSD and Ecstasy are included in this category. Marijuana is also in this list, although the state of Illinois allows limited selling and consumption of the drug for medical purposes.
Schedule 2 drugs also have a significant impact on the psychoactive and mental state of the user. These narcotics include Morphine and Cocaine.
Schedule 3 narcotics have a moderate effect on the user. These include substances like Anabolic steroids, Vicodin and even Marinol, a medically prescribed drug.
Schedule 4 and 5 drugs have a much lower effect on the patient. Some of these are even prescribed as medication for certain conditions. Xanax and Valium are included in Schedule 4 while Schedule 5 drugs include Lyrica and even cough suppressants.Punishments
The punishment for drugs and narcotics related cases is dependent on the quantity of the controlled substance in question and the nature of the charge.
For example, possession of less than 15 grams of heroin is charged as a Class 4 felony which is punishable by 1 – 3 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000. Possession of more than 900 grams is a Class X felony punishable by 10 – 50 years in prison.
A charge of trafficking, sale or manufacture results in a higher sentence even when a lower quantity is involved. For example, trafficking or sale of less than 15g may be charged as a Class 1 felony which is punishable by 4 – 15 years in prison. Trafficking more than 900g is punishable by 15 – 60 years.Examples and Court Cases
Brian Hill 43 from St Clair County had been charged with drug trafficking last year. The prosecution had alleged that Hill had sold cocaine to another man, Robert Johnson who has been convicted earlier for possession and sale of the drugs in question.
Three witnesses from the prosecution had testified during the trial, including two police officers and an undercover agent.
The prosecutors told the jury that Hill had originally supplied the cocaine to Johnson that was later purchased by the undercover agent.
The defense admitted that Hill was present at the liquor store where the exchange took place. However, they argued that he was only there as an employee of the store. Hill testified in court that he wasn’t involved in the drug trafficking.
The jury deliberated for some time before returning a verdict of not guilty based on the evidence presented in court.
In another case a man from Bloomington decided to act as his own counsel in a drug-related trial and ended up being convicted guilty of drug trafficking.
Andrew Pinkston had admitted to supplying drugs to a confidential informant working with the police. He argued that the informant had purchased cocaine from him on a regular basis for some time. The police had arrested the man on an unrelated drug possession case and he decided to become an informant.
Pinkston argued that the informant entrapped him, in order to get himself freed and it wasn’t fair. He told the court that the informant asked him to bring the bag of cocaine to his residence.
Under the Illinois entrapment laws a person cannot be held guilty of a crime if they have been compelled to commit the crime by someone else.
The prosecution argued that Pinkston freely decided to leave his work early and bring the bag of cocaine to the residence of the undisclosed informant.Possible Legal Defenses
In the state of Illinois, drug and narcotics trials are some of the toughest court battles that you will ever witness. The prosecution usually charges the defendant with a Class X felony, which gets the most serious punishments.
This makes it very important for the accused to get a highly skilled and experienced defense team. A competent defense team would be able to find the right strategy that has the best chances of winning.
One possible defense is to claim lack of knowledge. A defendant may be able to show that they were not aware about the presence of drugs in their house or vehicle. This defense works for people living in a shared accommodation, like college students sharing a single property.
We have seen many examples where one addicted student in a shared property can end up getting all the housemates in trouble. Claiming to lack awareness of the drugs could be a good defense in such cases.
Another good defense is to call the search and seizure into question. If the law-enforcement officers acquired the controlled drugs through an inadmissible practice, they can be removed from evidence.
The U.S. constitution makes it clear that private properties cannot be searched without a warrant. Even a warrant can be called into question if it was acquired without justifiable cause.
The defendant may also be able to use the entrapment strategy. In the example above we noted how Pinkston tried to use the entrapment defense unsuccessfully. He failed because he lacked the required legal knowledge and understanding to effectively employ this strategy.
If you have been charged with drug and narcotics offense in court, you should make sure to get a good defense team on your side.