Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

Chicago DUIIllinois has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois. As of January 1, 2020, you can legally possess up to 30 grams cannabis flower. If you are visiting the State of Illinois, you can legally possess half of the amount that residents of Illinois can possess.

Since marijuana possession was legalized in Illinois at the beginning of this year, I have noticed a big increase in the number of people arrested for the illegal possession of cannabis in their motor vehicle. The issue of having marijuana in a vehicle is misunderstood by many people and is leading to the arrest of many people. The other day, I met with a client who was pulled over by a police officer for a speeding violation. When the police officer asked the client if he had anything in his vehicle, the client voluntarily admitted that he had a small amount of cannabis in the ashtray of his vehicle. The client mistakenly believed that since the possession of marijuana is now permitted in Illinois, that he could transport marijuana in his vehicle without any limitations or consequences. After the client admitted that he had marijuana in his vehicle, he was asked to exit his vehicle and was placed under arrest. This is has become a common occurrence in Illinois

Under Illinois Law, you cannot smoke marijuana in any motor vehicle. You cannot smoke marijuana near anyone under the age of 21. Anyone under the age of 21 cannot legally possess any amount of marijuana in Illinois. You can legally transport marijuana in your motor vehicle but it must be out of arm’s reach of the driver and must be completely sealed in its original packaging. The same rule applies to medical marijuana patients who are transporting medical marijuana in their vehicle. If you buy Medical Marijuana at the Medical Marijuana Dispensary, they will put the product in its original packaging in a paper bag and staple it so that you do not have any problems if you are pulled over by the police.

Illinois-Marijuana-300x226On January 1, 2020, at 6 am, Possession of recreational Marijuana will become legal in Illinois. But, there will be limitations to the legalization of the Possession of Marijuana. Violating any of the restrictions in the new law can get you in trouble with the law for the Illegal Possession of Marijuana in Illinois. If you are an Illinois resident, or planning on visiting Illinois, and are thinking about taking advantage of the new law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, you should be aware of what you can legally do, and what you cannot do under the new law. If you do not know what the rules are and what the limitations are, you could find yourself being arrested, receiving an expensive ticket, or even facing a criminal case for Possession of Marijuana.

What is the Current Marijuana Law in Illinois?

Under current state law, it is illegal to possess any amount of Marijuana in Illinois unless you have a Medical Marijuana Card issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health. A couple of years ago, Illinois decriminalized the possession of small amounts of Marijuana. If you are caught with less than 10 grams of Marijuana, instead of being charged with a crime, you can be charged with a Municipal Ordinance Violation which carries a fine.

Possession-of-Marijuana-300x226The topic of Marijuana and the talk about possibly legalizing the Possession of Marijuana in Illinois is a big topic in the news and among Illinois residents. In addition, Illinois legalized the use of Medical Marijuana a few years ago. The movement towards legalizing Marijuana and the adoption of Medical Marijuana in Illinois has created confusion about whether you can be arrested for Possession of Marijuana and what the potential consequences could be. I want to talk about this issue and clear up any confusion about what the status of the Illinois Marijuana laws are today.

Possessing any amount of Marijuana is illegal in the State of Illinois. If you have applied for a Medical Marijuana card, and have been approved for the Medical Marijuana Program, you can legally purchase and possess Medical Marijuana that is purchased through an approved Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Illinois. However, the Medical Marijuana must be for your personal use and cannot be used in public.

Several years ago, Illinois decriminalized the possession of small amounts of Marijuana. While it’s still illegal to possess small amounts of Marijuana, if you are caught with up to 10 grams of Marijuana, instead of being arrested and facing criminal prosecution, you will be given a Civil Infraction, or a Municipal Ordinance Violation, instead of facing criminal charges. The maximum penalty you will face for possessing less than 10 grams of Marijuana is a civil fine up to $200. But while possessing less than 10 grams of Marijuana is not considered a criminal offense, depending on what town or what county you are in, the charge may appear on a criminal background search. This is something that you should research and be aware of prior to paying a Municipal Ordinance ticket for the possession of less than 10 grams of Marijuana. You should know whether the case will be visible in a background search or not before deciding how to deal with an Ordinance Violation for something like this.

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.