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If you have been arrested and accused of either distributing or possessing marijuana, heroin, cocaine, or meth-amphetamine, in Chicago or the surrounding areas, this page will help you make an organized and intelligent decision.

Anyone charged with a drug crime has Three Goals:

  • Avoid Jail Time,
  • Avoid a Conviction, and
  • Avoid Pleading Guilty.

Whether you can accomplish these three goals depends on:

  • The existence of any weaknesses in the government’s case against you,
  • The type of drug involved; Cocaine, heroin and meth laws carry far more severe penalties than weed,
  • Weight of the alleged drug, and
  • Possession v. Possession with Intent to Distribute.For more on how prosecutors will attempt to prove you held drugs with the intent to deliver them, instead of just possessing them for personal use, please read my article “Drug Possession or Drug Possession with Intent to Deliver in Illinois?”

Can I Beat My Drug Case?

Although drug cases often seem hopeless in the beginning, there are often hidden weaknesses that can be used to either totally beat drug accusations or to negotiate an acceptable settlement. The ways to beat a drug case are largely the same for all types of drug prosecutions whether based on marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine. As I wrote in the “Obtaining the Early Advantage for Clients Accused of Drug Crimes” chapter of “Inside the Minds: Defense Strategies for Drug Crimes” textbook, early and aggressive investigation is crucial to finding and using these methods. For example:

  • Challenge the Stop or the Search. It is illegal for police to stop you without specific information that you are breaking the law. Even if the police properly stop you, it is unconstitutional for police to search you without probable cause. If either the stop or the search was unconstitutional, any and all evidence obtained as a result of the illegal stop or search must be thrown out. Without the illegally obtained evidence, the case against you falls apart and must be thrown out. For more on getting your drug case dismissed by showing an illegal stop or search, read my section “Motion to Quash Arrest and Suppress Evidence for No Probable Cause in a Drug Prosecution.”
  • Challenge “Possession”: Maybe you were arrested because you were in a car with other people and the police found marijuana, cocaine, or heroin near you, but not on you. Or, perhaps no other people were with you, but the police found drugs near you in a backpack or glove compartment. Both of these are cases in which “possession” can be challenged; just being near drugs does not mean they were in your “possession” or that you even knew about them.
  • An Invalid Search Warrant: Some drug cases involving a search of your home or business can be dismissed because of defects in the search warrant. For more on getting your marijuana, cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine case dismissed by invalidating a warrant, read my section “Motion Attacking a Search Warrant Based on Lack of Probable Cause.”

There are many other legal and technical defenses to drug accusations that are best discussed in person.

What are my Settlement Options?

Settlement options in Illinois drug cases vary widely depending on the amounts and type of drug alleged in the complaint against you.

For smaller amounts or weaker drugs, a good target to aim for is a settlement that gets your case dismissed and avoids you pleading guilty in exchange for your completion of community service or educational programs. For medium amounts, “Expungeable” Probation or 410 Probation”, which would allow you to destroy any record of the case in the future, is a good goal. 720 ILCS 570/410. For larger amounts or harder drugs, Impact Incarceration or “Boot Camp” may be options, always with the goal of avoiding penitentiary time.

For a more detailed look at settlement options in drug cases, please read my blog post “Avoiding a Criminal Conviction in Cook County and Illinois”.

Penalties for Drug Charges in Illinois

Below is a table of potential penalties for:

  • Marijuana possession and marijuana possession with intent to deliver,
  • Cocaine possession and cocaine possession with intent to deliver, and
  • Heroin possession and heroin possession with intent to deliver.

Remember that these represent maximum penalties. Just because an offense is punishable by jail time does not mean that you will be punished with jail time especially if you are a first offender. Furthermore, possible sentence enhancements may apply depending on factors such as your criminal background, whether a firearm was involved, or if the alleged crime took place near a school or church.

Call for a Free ConsultationFacing a drug prosecution may be the most stressful thing you will ever go through in your life. I’ve helped hundreds defeat criminal charges, or at least control the damage they can cause, and I can guide you through the complex road ahead. If there is a way to beat your case, I will find it. If there is a way to settle your case quickly while keeping your record clean, I will find it. On the way phone calls and email will be answered promptly and you will have direct access to me personally.Call me at 312.893.5099 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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Marijuana Penalties in Illinois*

Weight (Grams)PossessionPossession with Intent to Deliver
0-2.530 days6 months
2.5-106 months1 year
10-301 year1-3 years
30-5001-3 years2-5 years
500-2,0002-5 years3-7 years
2,000-5,0003-7 years4-15 years
More than 5,0004-15 years6-30 years
*In addition, you may be fined the street value of the drug or up to $200,000.
Caution! Generally, possession of under 30 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor. If this is your second offense, however, and you are accused of possessing 10 or more grams of marijuana, you could be charged with, or upgraded to, a felony. 720 ILCS 550/4.

Cocaine Penalties in Illinois*

Weight (Grams)PossessionPossession with Intent to Deliver
0-11-3 years3-7 years
1-151-3 years4-15 years
15-1004-15 years6-30 years
100-4006-30 years9-40 years
400-9008-40 years12-50 years
More than 90010-50 years15-60 years
*In addition, you may be fined the street value of the drug or up to $250,000.