Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

MarijuanaIn July of 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation into law which makes possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil matter and not a criminal matter.  This new law made Illinois the 17th state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.  This means that if you are caught with the possession of 10 grams of marijuana or less, you will be issued a ticket charging you with a civil offense which carries a fine of up to $200.  However, individual towns are allowed to add additional penalties to the tickets, such as drug treatment or classes.  The new law also makes two more changes to Illinois law.  First, anyone charged under this new law will have the case expunged from their record automatically 6 months after the offense occurs. Expungements for these citations will happen automatically twice a year, January 1 and July 1.  This was added to the statute to make sure that such a case would not limit the ability of people, especially young people, to be able to obtain a job. The second change has to do with DUI’s. Under the old law, Illinois had a “no tolerance” policy when it came to driving a motor vehicle with the presence of any trace of marijuana in their blood system. Under the old law, if you had ingested marijuana a few weeks ago and were driving a motor vehicle, you could be charged with a DUI even if there were no signs of impairment.  Under the new law you cannot be charged with a DUI unless you have 5 nanograms of THC (the active ingredient of marijuana) in your blood, or 10 nanograms or more in your saliva.

This new law is pretty similar to a measure enacted in Chicago in 2012.  This measure allows police officers to issue tickets for possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana that carries fines of $250 to $500. The new law would not change what is happening in Chicago but would apply to any towns in Illinois that have no such measure so that there’s some uniformity in Illinois.

Similar legislation was passed in 2015.  But when it reached Rauner’s desk, he vetoed the legislation because he believed that it allowed for the possession of too much marijuana and the fines were too low. The legislature amended the legislation to satisfy Governor Rauner’s objections and he signed the bill into law. This measure went into immediate effect in Illinois.

Marijuana-300x203On January 1, 2014, Medical Marijuana became legal in Illinois. The Illinois Medical Marijuana policy is stricter than most other states that have enacted Medical Marijuana. Illinois does not allow Medical Marijuana to be grown at home. The Marijuana must be cultivated at a state-regulated facility that is under strict rules and regulations. To be allowed to use Medical Marijuana, you must apply for permission from the Illinois Department of Health. The application process is strict and it may take several months for you to be approved. If you are approved to use Medical Marijuana, you will be given an identification card. You will only be allowed to purchase 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana every 14 days. The program is tightly restricted and supervised.

While I was investigating how the Medical Marijuana laws have affected the DUI laws in Illinois, I discovered that if you get a Medical Marijuana card, this will be reported to the Illinois Secretary of State and your status as a Medical Marijuana patient will appear whenever a police officer runs your license. But as I looked into this further, I discovered some troubling news that all Medical Marijuana patients should be aware of. If a police officer is following your vehicle and they run your license plate, it is entirely possible that their computer will show that you are a Medical Marijuana patient. Most Illinois drivers will have their driver’s license number linked with the license plate number of the car that they own and is registered to them. If your driver’s license number is linked to the license plate number of your vehicle and when a police officer runs your license plate number, their computer will show that you are a Medical Marijuana patient. To verify this, I contacted a friend who works at the Illinois Secretary of State and asked him to confirm my findings. Initially, he told me that I was wrong and that this information is not reported to the Secretary of State, so this information would not appear if your license is searched or your plates are checked. I asked him to look into this further to make sure his information was correct because I had received conflicting information. After a short time he contacted me to inform me that my findings were correct and that the Medical Marijuana is reported to the Secretary of State. While not all driver’s licenses are linked to their license plate numbers, most licenses are.

You can imagine how this could be troubling for Medical Marijuana patients. While a valid argument could be made to allow the Secretary of State to place Medical Marijuana patient status on your driving record so that this information would appear if your license was ever run by a police officer, it makes no sense to make it possible for a police officer to discover this information when they are randomly running license plates of vehicles. While most police officers are honorable and honest, allowing this information to be available whenever a license plate number is run through a computer in a squad car opens the door to potential abuse and misuse. One can imagine a situation in which a police officer, who is randomly running license plate numbers of vehicles on the roadway, sees that a particular vehicle is registered to a Medical Marijuana patient and pulls over the driver of the vehicle just because he knows that there’s a pretty good chance that the driver of the vehicle has used marijuana in the recent past. This has the effect of placing a bulls eye on a Medical Marijuana patient who may doing nothing wrong other than being a Medical Marijuana patient.

Veterans CourtThe recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen a dramatic rise in the number of mental health and substance abuse issues involving military veterans returning from serving in those wars.  Some of these soldiers are returning home with mental health issues and are using drugs to deal with the mental health issues which such wars have caused.  Those issues have spilled into the criminal justice system when these military veterans are getting arrested for crimes caused by substance abuse and mental health issues arising out of their military service.  In an effort to address the specific needs of returning veterans, the Illinois Legislature passed legislation in 2009 establishing Veterans Courts in Illinois.  The 2009 legislation did not require that counties establish such courts.  Nevertheless, Cook County and Lake County did establish such courts. Veterans Courts are specific courts which are designed to steer military veterans out of the criminal punishment aspect of the court system and towards the treatment aspect of the court system.  Specific courts have been established at 26th and California, Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Bridgeview and Markham. The Veterans Courts in Cook County have been very successful and have been used as a model by court systems throughout the United States to help them establish their own Veterans Courts.  The Illinois Legislature recently passed legislation requiring that each county in Illinois establish such a court by January 1, 2018.  In anticipation of this new law taking effect, counties throughout Illinois are beginning to make plans to establish these courts.  Kane County officials are aware of the new law and are beginning to make plans to start the process of establishing these courts.

In order for a veteran to be eligible for Veterans Court in Cook County, enrollment has to be agreed to by the Court, Prosecutor and the Defendant.  The crime that the veteran is charged with cannot be a crime of violence. The veteran will not be eligible unless they have demonstrated a willingness to undergo treatment in the program.  They will also be ineligible if they have been convicted of a crime of violence within the past 10 years or if they have been discharged from a similar program within the past 3 years.

Lake County’s Veterans Court is similar with minor changes to the eligibility requirements.  To be eligible for Veterans Court in Lake County the veteran must have been honorably discharged from the military, must have a service related disability or currently be in the military, must be charged with a felony or misdemeanor in which probation or supervision is available, and must be willing to participate in the program before and after they enter the program.  They prefer that the veteran be eligible for VA benefits but is not a requirement.  For any crime involving a crime against an individual, the victim must agree to allowing the veteran to enter such a program.

410 ProbationIllinois law has made a special type of Probation available for first-time felony drug offenders to avoid a felony conviction on their record. This type of Probation is commonly known as Section 410 or Section 1410 Probation. In order to be eligible for this type of Probation, you cannot have previously been convicted of, or placed on Probation or Court Supervision, for any criminal offense related to Cannabis or Illegal Drugs. This includes Prescription Drugs.  If you are eligible for this type of Probation, here’s how it works:

At the time of sentencing, you will have to plead guilty to the charges. The court will accept your guilty plea but will not enter judgment. The court will place you on a period of Probation that will last 24 months. The only time you should have to go back to court before your Probation ends is if a Petition to Violate your Probation is filed or if the court schedules a check date to see how you are doing. While you are on Probation the court will require that you do not violate any criminal laws in any state. You will not be allowed to possess a firearm or any other dangerous weapon. The court will order that you submit to random and unscheduled drug testing.  You will be required to pay the cost of the drug testing but you should not have to take more than 3 drug tests during the period of your Probation. You will also be required to perform 30 hours of community service. In addition, the court may require additional conditions such as payment of additional fines and court costs, require that you continue with your education, undergo medical or psychiatric treatment, and may require that you appear in court periodically.  The statute gives the court great latitude on imposing additional conditions on your 410 Probation.  Since every case is different, any additional requirements will depend on your particular case.

There are some drawbacks to this type of Probation. The main problem being that since you have pled guilty to the charges, if the court determines that you violated your 410 Probation for any reason, you cannot go back to that court and fight the case because you have already pled guilty. So if you violate this Probation, the only question before the court will be what your sentence should be. You will not be able to contest your guilt or innocence. If you violate your Probation, typically the court will convert the 410 Probation to a felony conviction which could result in a sentence of felony Probation or a jail sentence.

Possession-of-Marijuana-300x200Because of the widespread use of marijuana in our society, it is common to see criminal cases involving people who have been caught with marijuana and charged with Possession of Marijuana. While several States have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, Illinois is not one of those States. The furthest Illinois has gone to legalizing marijuana is to enact the Medical Marijuana statute which allows for the medical use of marijuana.  Unless you have been approved to use Medical Marijuana, it is illegal to use and possess any amount of marijuana in Illinois. So what could happen to you if you are arrested by the police and charged with possession of marijuana?

As of about a year ago, if you were caught with any amount of marijuana whatsoever, you could be facing a Class A misdemeanor which carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. But about a year ago, the law was changed to make the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana a civil matter and not a criminal matter. In other words, if you are caught with 10 grams or less of marijuana, you will be given a ticket and charged with a Municipal Violation and not a criminal case. You will have to pay a fine, like you received a traffic ticket.  The marijuana possession law was changed so that someone charged with the possession of a small amount of marijuana could avoid having a criminal matter show up on a background search. The new law provides that six months after the municipal violation, your criminal record will automatically be expunged so that a charge of a small amount of the Possession of Marijuana will not show up on a background search. Expungements for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana will happen July 1st and January 1st of every year automatically.

If you are caught with more than 10 grams of marijuana, you could be facing criminal charges. The potential penalties that you could be facing will depend on the amount of marijuana you are caught with. If the marijuana was more than 10 grams but less than 30 grams, you will be facing a Class A misdemeanor. If you are caught with over 30 grams but less than 500 grams, you could be facing a class 4 felony, which carries a possible prison sentence of one to three years. If you are caught with over 500 grams of marijuana but less than 2000 grams, you could be facing a class 3 felony which carries a potential jail sentence of between two to five years. If the weight of the marijuana was over 200 grams but less than 5000 grams, you could be facing a Class 2 felony which carries a possible prison sentence between 3 to 7 years. If the weight of the marijuana is over 5000 grams, you could be facing a Class 1 felony which carries a possible prison sentence of between 4 to 15 years.

Kane-County-Drug-Crime-300x226Last week, Kane County State’s Attorney, Joe McMahon, reported that Kane County Prosecutors have seen a rise in the number of criminal cases filed in Kane County in the first six months of this year compared to last year. McMahon reports that felony filings are up 15.7% compared to the same period last year. The increase in criminal cases in Kane County is happening with misdemeanor and traffic cases as well. In the first six months of 2017, 1,247 new felony cases were filed. During the same period last year, 1,078 cases were filed. Aurora, the largest city in Kane County, has seen a drop in the number of new felony cases. Most criminal cases in Kane County come from Aurora. The Village of Carpentersville has seen a rise in the number of Retail Theft cases. Carpentersville police attribute this to the opening of a new Walmart in Carpentersville. Elgin, the second largest city in Kane County, has seen a rise in violent crimes. McMahon is concerned with the increase in the number of criminal cases filed in Kane County since the number of criminal cases filed increased in 2016 as well.

In 2016, McMahon talked about the inability of authorities to make a dent in the number of Domestic Battery, or Domestic Violence cases filed in Kane County. In 2016, McMahon reported that of the almost 5,700 misdemeanor cases filed in Kane County in 2015, 1,219 involved Domestic Battery, or Domestic Violence charges. 200 Aggravated Domestic Battery felony charges were filed in Kane County in 2015. In the same 2016 discussion, McMahon talked about the impact that the heroin problem is having on Kane County. McMahon echoed his concerns about the heroin problem in Kane County last week when he announced an increase in the number of criminal cases filed in Kane County. Last week, McMahon stated that drug-related cases, “continue to be a serious problem.”

This morning, the Chicago Tribune is reporting about efforts that police departments throughout the State of Illinois are taking in an attempt to get drug users into drug treatment. Many local police agencies are trying to implement a program started by the police in Glocester Massachusetts a few years ago. The programs are commonly referred to as “Safe Passage.” If people walk into a police station and give up their drugs and ask for help, instead of placing them under arrest, the police will dispose of the drugs without filing criminal charges and will place them in drug rehab programs. More and more police agencies in Illinois are trying to do something like this with varying results. Authorities in Dixon Illinois report great success with their program. Dixon police report that 170 people have been placed into rehab with this program. More than half of the people placed in drug rehab have successfully completed their drug treatment. Dixon police report a 39% decrease in the number of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases filed.

TASC Probation in IllinoisTASC Probation is a special kind of probation that is available to criminal defendants who have substance abuse issues and elect to receive treatment for their disorder.  It’s a possible sentence that I have explored throughout the years to help my clients avoid a criminal conviction and be able to move on with their lives.  TASC stands for “Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities.”  This not for profit organization has offices throughout the State of Illinois in every County that provides treatment services for adults who have substance abuse issues.  TASC probation is different from regular drug probation in that you do not have to be charged with a drug crime to receive TASC probation.

Under the Illinois Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependency Act you can ask that the court treat you as someone who has a drug problem.  Once you make that request you will be lined up for an evaluation with a representative of the TASC program.  They will interview you and determine whether you are acceptable for their program.  My experience has been that TASC will accept you if they determine that they have a program that they think will help you and if they determine that you are being honest and are ready for help.  They want to make sure that you are seeking their services because you really want help for your substance abuse issues and not just trying to avoid a criminal conviction for your criminal case.

You are not automatically eligible for TASC probation. There are certain things about your case and your background that could make you ineligible for TASC Probation.  If you are being charged with a violent crime, or you are being charged with a DUI, or if you have two or more convictions for a violent crime, or if you have another pending felony, or if you are already on probation or parole, or if you have been admitted to a treatment program two or more times in the past, or if you have been convicted of a Residential Burglary and have one or more felony on your background, you may not be accepted into the program.  There may be other things about you and your case that may make you ineligible for TASC Probation.  That’s why you need to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can help you with TASC so you could avoid having a criminal conviction on your record.