Chicago, Illinois is known for its strict drug laws and harsh penalties. If you have recently been charged with possession with intent to deliver, it's important to know your legal rights and how you can protect them. Here we answer common questions about what an intent charge really is, what the consequences are, how prosecutors try to convict you, and what you can do to defend yourself. With any felony offense, enlisting the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney is always your best defense.
What Is Possession With Intent to Deliver Under Illinois Law?
The crime of drug possession is a criminal offense where a person is found to be in possession of a controlled substance. Possession can be assumed if the illegal drug was found on a person's body, in their vehicle, or on their property. Possession with intent to deliver means the individual found to be in control of that illegal drug had plans to deliver or sell the substance. Possession with intent to deliver is a more serious drug crime with harsher penalties than simple possession.
Understanding the Consequences
Possession with the intent to deliver can carry devastating consequences. It is a felony offense punishable by mandatory jail sentences and hefty fines. In addition to these harsh penalties, someone convicted will suffer the negative consequences of having a drug offense on their permanent records, like loss of housing or employment opportunities. The consequences can vary due to a number of factors but are mostly categorized by the number of illegal substances. Here is a quick guide to understanding the penalties for possession with intent to distribute:
If the amount is less than 1 gram, it is considered a Class 2 felony which is punishable by up to $200,000 in fines and between 1 to 7 years in prison.
An amount greater than 1 gram, but less than 15 grams, is a Class 1 felony. A Class 1 felony is punishable by fines up to $250,000 and a prison term of 4-15 years.
If the amount is greater than 15 grams, then a conviction is a Class X felony. A Class X felony carries penalties of up to $500,000 in fines and a minimum prison sentence of 6 years and a maximum sentence of 30 years.
For cases where the amount is greater than 100 grams, an individual is facing a Super X Felony. A Super X felony is punishable by a $500,000 fine and between 9 and 30 years of prison time.
These substance penalties are the starting point for cut-and-dry cases without other extenuating factors. In Chicago, the consequences can be more severe if additional laws are broken. For instance, if the person was also found to be in possession of weapons, if they have a past criminal record, or if the scene of the crime occurred within 1000 feet of a drug-free zone. Drug-free zones include schools, public housing, nursing homes, public parks, and religious facilities.
How Prosecutors Prove Intent in Possession With Intent to Deliver
So how do law enforcement officers prove intent to deliver? The biggest indicator is the possession of an illegal drug in a quantity too large to be consumed by one individual. If the substance is found in lesser quantities but packaged separately, like multiple baggies of cocaine, the arresting officer will also take that as a sign of intent.
The other main way to prove intent is the presence of other drug paraphernalia items or drug distribution tools found by law enforcement officials. This includes items like scales, bags, ties, and weapons. Also evidence of running a business like large amounts of cash or ledgers. Lastly, prosecutors will use testimonies from confidential informants, undercover officers, or other witnesses to prove their case.
Defenses for Drug Possession Charges
Although every case is unique, there are some common strategies that a criminal defense attorney will use to fight substance charges. Common defense strategies include:
Challenging the circumstances - Your criminal defense attorney may be able to demonstrate that you were never in possession or in control of the substance. Or they may suggest that the substances were planted and you were unknowingly in possession.
Lack of evidence - An attorney with experience handling drug charges may be able to file claims against the strength of the evidence. Perhaps the evidence is circumstantial or the substance was not actually an illicit drug. Or maybe law enforcement mishandled the evidence. If the evidence can be proven to be unsubstantial, the charges could be reduced or dropped entirely.
Unlawful search and seizure - If your criminal attorney can prove that law enforcement violated your legal rights resulting in an unlawful arrest or search, then the evidence obtained may not be admissible in court. Without that evidence, your felony charges may be reduced or dismissed.
Extenuating circumstances - A criminal defense lawyer may try to prove that you have mental health issues or addiction issues. This strategy is commonly used to get the defendant the help they need in a substance abuse treatment program instead of prison.
A drug defense lawyer will formulate a strategy that best fits your specific case. Their goal is to help get your charges reduced or completely dropped. They may also negotiate plea bargains on your behalf to help receive a lesser charge and lesser penalties. No matter the situation, if you are facing criminal charges for possession with intent to distribute, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel.