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Illinois drug lawsWhile the possession of marijuana is a criminal offense throughout much of the United States, its use is widespread, and support for marijuana legalization is growing. Currently, the recreational use of marijuana is legal in eight states and the District of Columbia, and 64% of Americans support legalization. As several other states consider ballot referendums or legislation to legalize marijuana, Illinois residents are wondering if our state may be the next in line to make this change.

Current Illinois Marijuana Laws

In 2016, Illinois passed a law decriminalizing the possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. While possession of marijuana is still considered illegal, anyone caught in possession of less than 10 grams will not be charged with a criminal offense; instead, they will face a civil fine of $100 to $200. Possession of more than 10 grams is a criminal offense ranging from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 1 felony, depending on the amount of marijuana.

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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 criminal defense attorneyWhen you have been charged with a crime—especially a non-violent crime such as drug possession—a criminal defense attorney will do everything he or she can to help you avoid a conviction. In some situations, however, the circumstances and the evidence against you may simply be too much. Or perhaps you really did possess illegal drugs or otherwise committed the crime of which you have been accused. While such a situation may seem hopeless, nothing could be further from the truth. There are several options that may be available to help minimize the penalties associated with your prosecution. One of the most common ways of reducing a sentence is by reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors.

What is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain or plea agreement is the result of a series of negotiations between prosecutors and a criminal defendant—usually handled through his or her attorney. In many cases, the negotiations also include a judge who has the authority to approve alternative sentencing options in advance. When developing a plea agreement, prosecutors will generally offer to lessen the defendant’s sentence by reducing the number or severity of the charges against the individual. Sometimes, a plea deal will even allow the defendant to participate in deferred prosecution or other diversionary programs instead of receiving a standard conviction and sentence. In return, the defendant will usually need to plead guilty or no contest to the agreed upon charges.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyIn 2013, Illinois lawmakers—led by State Representative Lou Lang, D-Skokie—passed legislation to create an experimental medical marijuana program in the state. The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act was signed by then-Governor Pat Quinn so that state officials could determine the effectiveness of allowing marijuana to be used in the treatment of certain illnesses and ailments. Supporters of the program were excited by the idea that eligible patients could get relief without fear of prosecution on charges related to the possession or consumption of marijuana.

Good Intentions

As a pilot program, the initial medical marijuana measure contained a sunset clause, meaning that the law would automatically be repealed four years after it went into effect on January 1, 2014. If the program was a success, new legislation would be needed to make it permanent.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyIn last week’s post on this blog, we talked a little bit about the two different types of drug possession. We discussed that actual possession refers to having illegal drugs on your person or in your immediate vicinity while constructive possession refers to the presence of illegal drugs in your home or car. The difference in the two types of possession is a key point in determining whether you could face criminal consequences if a guest or passenger brings illegal drugs into your home or car, but it is not the only consideration. Your knowledge of the situation is also a factor; you cannot stop what you do not know is happening.

Knowledge of the Drug’s Presence

The Illinois Controlled Substance Act provides that it is illegal for a person to knowingly possess a prohibited substance. “Knowingly,” however, is very important part of the law. In seeking a conviction, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew that the drugs were present, whether they were found in your car, your home, or in a purse or backpack. Depending upon the situation, proving your knowledge can be very difficult.

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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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