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IL defense lawyerTen states in the United States plus Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, but Illinois is not one of them. Though the state may be getting closer to legalizing the substance, it is still considered a drug crime to possess weed. This includes the cultivation of cannabis plants.

There are serious consequences to possession of marijuana charges, but punishments for growing the plants are even worse. According to Illinois law, growing cannabis plants can be a misdemeanor or a felony charge with punishments varying according to the number of plants grown:

  • Five or fewer plants: Class A misdemeanor charge, one year in prison and $2,500 in fines.
  • Five-20 plants: Class 4 felony charge, up to six years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
  • Over 20-50 plants: Class 3 felony charge, 2-10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
  • Over 50-200 plants: Class 2 felony charge, 3-14 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
  • Over 200 plants: Class 1 felony charge, 4-30 years in prison and $1000,000 in fines.

Of course, there are more penalties that one may face if the prosecution discovers that the plants were grown with the intent to sell or distribute the cannabis.

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Illinois drug attorneyEvery year, around 10,000 people in the United States are killed in car accidents involving a driver who was under the influence of alcohol. In recent decades, law enforcement agencies have increased their efforts to combat drunk driving, and they are now looking to enforce laws against driving while under the influence of illegal drugs.

In 2015, the number of drivers who tested positive for drugs after being involved in a fatal accident was greater than the number of drivers who tested positive for alcohol. As more states legalize marijuana, and more people across the country abuse prescription drugs, opioids, and methamphetamine, police are looking to implement new tests that will allow them to make DUI arrests when drivers are under the influence of drugs.

Testing for Drugs

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyPrescription opioid abuse is now a full-blown epidemic in the United States. Between 1999 and 2015, an estimated 183,000 people died from opioid overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1,000 people per day are treated in emergency rooms for misuse of opioids. Drug overdoses now cause more deaths annually than automobile crashes, and opioids are the leading cause of overdoses by a wide margin.

Many individuals who become addicted to opioid-based medication begin taking the medicine for a legitimate reason and have a doctor’s prescription. After the bottle of pills—often hydrocodone, oxycodone or meperidine—is empty, however, individuals look to illegal sources. Many turn to heroin, fentanyl, and other street products with potentially devastating effects. A new study suggests, however, that starting down the path of opioids is not the preferred solution for most patients in need of pain medication

What Patients Want

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyIn a recent memo, Unites States Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” when it comes to prosecuting drug crimes. This is a complete reversal of the direction drug crimes prosecution was going under the previous administration.

A Departure From Recent Years

Under the Obama administration, then-Attorney General Eric Holder ordered prosecutors to change the way they handled non-violent cases, including those involving drug charges, directing them to allow lower-level agencies—such as local and state prosecutors—to handle these types of cases. Over the past several years, as the drug epidemic has spread throughout the country, there has been more focus placed on criminal justice reform, particularly figuring out ways to get those facing drug charges the help and rehabilitation they need instead of just throwing them into prison. The Justice Department under the Trump administration, however, appears to be rolling back those reforms and instead, going back to harsher penalties and implementing mandatory minimum sentences. 

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Chicago criminal If you have been charged with possession of cocaine, you could be facing serious penalties. While every case is different, courts tend to adhere to the penalty ranges set forth in the law. A qualified defense attorney can help you understand the applicable statutes and your available options.

Charges for Possession of Cocaine

Cocaine is considered a controlled dangerous substance (or CDS). The penalties for cocaine possession are generally determined by the amount of the drug recovered. Possession of cocaine is considered a felony and a conviction will result in severe consequences:

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Chicago drug crimes defense attorneyDrug addiction continues to be a serious problem in Illinois and across the United States. Unfortunately, many of the laws and measures that have been enacted in the so-called “War on Drugs” over the last few decades have focused primarily on harsh penalties for drug offenders. While there is something to said for creating deterrents to criminal behavior, a lengthy prison sentence or hefty fine is likely to do little to solve the underlying issue of addiction. With that in mind, states around the country, including Illinois, have developed programs designed to help non-violent, drug-addicted offenders kick their destructive habits and focus on rehabilitating their lives.

Mandating Treatment

One of the most effective programs for drug-addicted offenders is known colloquially as Drug Court. The program may have a more specific title in each of the counties in which it has been established, but most Drug Courts—especially in Illinois—are similar in their goals and procedures. The importance of such programs has escalated in recent years with the continued concerns over methamphetamines and resurgence of heroin abuse as a nationwide epidemic. Many addicts will only get treatment if they are somehow coerced into doing so, and subsequent to an arrest, that is exactly the intent of Drug Courts. In most cases, the results of coerced treatment are the same, if not better, than voluntary treatment, making a strong case for the continuation of such programs.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyIn June 1971—following the cultural and sexual revolutions of the 1960s—President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs. Over the next several years, the Nixon administration dramatically increased the size and scope of federal anti-drug agencies and began pushing for harsh sentences for even non-violent drug offenders. In the decades since, the United States government and others around the world have continued to fight against drugs, locking up millions and creating a thriving black market for illegal substances of all kinds. In many states, including Illinois, a person can be arrested just for riding in the same car as a person in possession of drugs.

Time for Change

After 45 years, however, there is growing pressure throughout the country for a new approach to America’s drug concerns. Perhaps the most telling indication of the evolution that is taking place is the national attitude toward marijuana. While the federal Drug Enforcement Agency continues to consider marijuana a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act—alongside drugs like heroin and LSD—individual states are taking action on their own. A Schedule I drug is one that has no currently accepted medical use, yet 28 states and the District of Columbia have created legal medical marijuana programs. Following this year’s general election, there are even six states that have legalized recreational use of the drug.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyIf you have ever watched the reality/documentary show COPS, you have probably heard many of the typical claims a suspect often makes when he or she is found to be in possession of what looks like illegal drugs. “That’s not mine,” “I have no idea where that came from,” or “My friend must have left that in my car.” While such excuses ring extremely hollow, there may be situations in which the driver of a vehicle is not aware that one of his or her passengers has cocaine or ecstasy in his or her possession. (Possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana was recently decriminalized in Illinois, making marijuana a less likely candidate for this type of case.) If you are a driver in such a situation, could you be responsible for the drugs your friend is carrying?

There is not a simple answer to that question. As with most areas of the law, it depends entirely on the circumstances of the situation. Important elements include where the drugs are being carried or hidden and whether you really did know that drugs were present in your car. Over the next few weeks, we will look at the factors that can affect a drug possession charge, helping you get the information you need to protect your rights.

Two Types of Possession

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