Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

cannabis-buds-in-hand-300x287In recent years, laws regarding the Possession and Use of Marijuana have been changing throughout the country. This is true in the State of Illinois. In 1931, The Illinois Legislature made the recreational use of marijuana illegal. This legislation was part of a national trend which made the use of marijuana illegal nationally. In recent years, a new national trend has swept throughout the country which is having the opposite effect on the use of Marijuana. This trend clearly appears to be more accepting of the medical and recreational use of Marijuana. This national trend has swept into Illinois as well. In 2016, the Illinois Legislature decriminalized the possession of small amounts of Marijuana in Illinois. If you are caught with 10 grams or less of Marijuana, you will no longer be placed under arrest and subject to criminal prosecution and criminal penalties. In 2016 the State of Illinois made the possession of 10 grams or less of Marijuana a Municipal Ordinance Violation which only carries a civil penalty. The City of Chicago decriminalized the possession of small amounts of Marijuana in 2012.

In 2013, the Illinois Legislature enacted the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. This Act legalized the use of Marijuana for medical purposes under certain tight regulations. When the Medical Marijuana Act was enacted in 2013, it was considered one of the most restrictive and prohibitive Medical Marijuana programs in the United States. Recently, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law numerous changes to the Medical Marijuana program which have loosened many of the restrictions and made it possible for more people to be able to use Medical Marijuana legally in the State of Illinois.

The recent changes to the Medical Marijuana program in Illinois allows doctors to prescribe Medical Marijuana in place of opioids, for a short period of time, for patients in need of relief from pain. This change to the Medical Marijuana program is an attempt to stop the opioid epidemic from spreading. Another change to the Medical Marijuana program in Illinois removes the requirement that an applicant has to submit to a background search which required that a sample of their fingerprints be submitted with the application. This will have the effect of speeding up the process for being approved to use Medical Marijuana in Illinois. Prior to the recent changes to the Medical Marijuana program, it could take three to four months for an application to be approved. This will also make it possible for patients with a criminal record to be able to legally obtain and use Medical Marijuana. With the recent changes, once your application is accepted and payment is received, you can legally purchase Medical Marijuana at a state approved Medical Marijuana Dispensary by simply showing them your receipt from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the agency that is charged with administering the Medical Marijuana program in Illinois.

Possession-of-Marijuana-300x200On Tuesday, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, signed into law a measure that drastically expands the Illinois Medical Marijuana Program. The main focus of the expanded Medical Marijuana legislation is to attack the massive opioid epidemic which led to the loss of almost 2,000 lives in Illinois in 2016, and roughly 72,000 people throughout the country.

Under current state law, in order to qualify for Medical Marijuana, you must be suffering from certain illnesses that are set forth in the Medical Marijuana statute. This new law will allow doctors to prescribe Medical Marijuana for any patient that would qualify for a prescription opioid drug such as OxyContin, Vicodin, or Percocet. This new law takes into consideration the addictive qualities of prescription opioids and the medicinal value and benefits of Medical Marijuana. It recognizes that Medical Marijuana is a viable and beneficial alternative to prescription opioid drugs.

The new law is based on solid scientific evidence which has shown that states that have legalized Medical Marijuana have experienced a sharp decrease in the number of opioid-related deaths. At the same time, numerous medical studies have shown that Medical Marijuana can be effective in treating pain that would otherwise be treated by highly addictive prescription opioid drugs. Now, patients who suffer from chronic pain have a choice between using Medical Marijuana or taking opioid-related prescription drugs. Studies have shown that no deaths have resulted from the use of Medical Marijuana to treat chronic pain.

ConfessionYesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued several opinions on cases that had been closely watched by observers. The case that has received most of the public attention involves legalized sports betting. But lost in the coverage was the release of two opinions involving the 4th and 5th Amendment rights of criminal defendants. These opinions expand the rights of motorists in their vehicles and the rights of criminal defendants facing prosecution in Criminal Courts. I want to take this opportunity to discuss these two cases and how they will impact the criminal law.

Motorists Rights Expanded

The first case involves the appeal of the conviction of Terrence Byrd’s appeal of his conviction in Pennsylvania of Possession of Heroin and the Possession of Illegal body armor. Byrd plead guilty but reserved his right to appeal. Byrd had been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Byrd appealed and his conviction had been upheld by the Federal Court of Appeals. Yesterday, his conviction was overturned by the United States Supreme Court.

Kane-County-Drug-Case-300x226Yesterday, Kane County State’s Attorney, Joe McMahon, announced that Kane County saw a 7% increase in the number of felony cases filed by the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office in 2017. The increase in the filing of felonies in Kane County continues a rise in the number of felony cases filed that began in 2015. In 2007, Kane County saw 3,349 felony cases filed. That number declined from that year until 2015, when 2,011 felony cases were filed in Kane County. In 2016, 2,255 felony cases were filed. In 2017, 2,413 felony cases were filed. That represents a 7% increase over 2016.

McMahon attributes the 7% increase over 2016 to the rise in the number of felony drug cases that were filed in Kane County last year. McMahon reports that last year, his office charged 447 felony drug cases. That number represents a 42% increase over 2016. Some of the cases filed in Kane County in 2017 were severe drug cases such as Possession with Intent to Deliver, Delivery of a Controlled Substance, and Drug Trafficking. The increase in the number of drug cases filed in 2017 coincides with the rising number of heroin-related overdose deaths that have been rising in King County and other surrounding counties.

McMahon believes that the increase in the number of felony drug cases in Kane County is a combination of an increase in the number of drugs coming into the area and the increased attention that law enforcement has placed on attacking the heroin and opioid-related crises in Kane County.

Bond HearingRecently, I won a Source of Funds hearing at the Maywood Courthouse.  At my client’s initial bond hearing, the judge required that my client prove the source of funds prior to being allowed to post the required amount of the cash bond.  Immediately after the bond hearing I was contacted by my client’s family and hired to do whatever I could to get my client out of jail.  I immediately got to work and today, my client is a free man. Here’s how this case started and how I was able to get him released.

My client was pulled over in his vehicle by the Chicago Police.  After he was pulled over the police officer determined that his license had been suspended and he was placed under arrest.  His vehicle was subsequently searched and the police recovered approximately 2 pounds of marijuana and about 120 grams of mushrooms from inside his vehicle.  The arrest occurred late on Friday so he was taken to Central Bond Court at 26th and California on Sunday.  At the bond hearing the Judge set the bond at $10,000 cash.  The state filed a Petition requiring proof of Source of Funds, and the court granted their request.  Source of Funds is a procedure by which the Court will require proof that the money that will be posted for a bond is money that was lawfully obtained.  The law does not want drug money to be used to bond someone out of jail.  Prosecutors frequently request such proof in drug cases in which they believe that the defendant is a drug dealer.  Based on the amount of drugs found in our client’s vehicle, the Court felt that there was enough evidence to believe that my client was in the business of selling drugs.  When the prosecutor files such a request and the Court grants their request, then the burden shifts to the Defendant to file a Petition requesting that the Court conduct a hearing to allow the bond to be posted.  This is known as a Source of Bail Hearing.  At this hearing, the defense has the burden of proving that the money that will be posted for the bond is not drug money.

After the bond hearing I met with the friends and family of our client in my office and obtained bank records, pay stubs, tax returns, business documents, and prepared affidavits to prove that the money that would be used to post the required bond was not drug money.  I filed the petition at the first court date in Maywood, which was just a few days after the bond hearing.  Less than a week later the Court held a hearing which lasted over 2 days.  At the hearing I presented live testimony and presented evidence to the court to prove that the bond money was legally and lawfully obtained.  The Court was convinced that the bond money was not drug money and allowed the family to post the bond.

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.