How Do I Beat a Felony Drug Charge in Illinois?
If you have been charged with or are being investigated for felony drug-related crimes, the repercussions can be severe. Conviction of a felony offense means facing high fines and years of imprisonment. In addition, you will have a permanent criminal record that will affect your reputation and opportunities for education, employment, housing, and relationships for a lifetime.
When facing a felony drug charge, you need the best defense available, as prosecutors will be fighting to impose the steepest of punishments. The road to beating these charges depends on the facts of your case, applicable laws, the strength of the prosecution’s case, and your available defenses. Technical flaws may get the charges dismissed or reduced. As part of a plea bargain agreement, you may plead guilty to a misdemeanor in exchange for the dismissal of the felony charge. What’s right for you depends on the situation you are facing, your goals, and what you are willing to do.
Whatever your situation, fighting felony drug charges is not something you should attempt on your own. A skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer knows just how seriously felonies are treated in Illinois. They also know the laws, the courts, and the system and how to find the best approach to have charges against their client lessened or dismissed.
How to Get Drug Charges Dismissed
Because felony charges carry such serious penalties, to get your drug charges dismissed or reduced, look for an attorney who has successfully handled felony cases before and can produce a plan of action for your defense. Your drug charges attorney should:
- Meet with you to hear your story and why you were charged with a drug-related felony.
- Explain felony drug charges, classifications, and possible punishments as they may apply in your case.
- Investigate your case and gather evidence such as from surveillance photos and videos; police, laboratory, and medical reports; and interviews with eyewitnesses and first responders.
- Examine the facts of your arrest to determine the best defense, such as finding flaws in the case and mistakes made by police and prosecutors.
- Prepare you to go to court and prevent you from saying or doing anything that would hurt your case.
- Make sure all forms are filed correctly and court appearances and requirements are made promptly.
- Negotiate and plea bargain with prosecutors for a lesser charge or dismissal.
- Take your case to court, handle all aspects of preparing your defense, and litigate aggressively on your behalf.
- File any appeals if necessary.
Understanding Classes of Felony Drug Charges and Punishments
Drug laws are highly technical and always changing. You could face both state and federal charges, depending on what happened. Federal drug laws have mandatory minimum and maximum sentences. If you are convicted of a federal drug crime, you will most likely face a minimum sentence of five to ten years with little or no chance of probation.
According to the Illinois Criminal Code, there are six classes of felonies — 1, 2, 3, 4, X, and M. The circumstances of the crime determine the severity of the class and the punishment. A conviction on a felony charge carries a jail sentence of more than one year. For the most serious violent felonies, the sentences are significantly more, and many offenses have mandatory minimum jail sentences and extended-term sentencing.
Types Of Drug Charges in Illinois
Depending on the charges, you could spend the rest of your life in prison. There are many possible felony drug charges, depending on what the police investigation finds. Penalties for possession vary depending on the circumstances. Here are some examples:
- Possession of less than a gram of cocaine, heroin, or morphine is a Class 4 felony and carries a sentence of probation or one to three years in jail.
- Possession of 15 to less than 100 grams of heroin, cocaine, or morphine has a sentence of four to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
- Possession of 900 grams or more of heroin, cocaine, or morphine carries a sentence of 10 to 50 years in prison and fines of up to $200,000 or the full street value of the drug, whichever is greater.
If a drug sale or trafficking is alleged, penalties increase. Delivering less than a gram of cocaine or heroin is a Class 2 felony, with four to 15 years in prison. If the amount is 900 grams, you could be imprisoned for 15 to 60 years.
It is illegal to manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent to manufacture or deliver drugs. Penalties are:
- A sentence of 6 to 30 years and a fine of up to $500,000 if 15 to 99 grams of heroin, cocaine, or morphine are involved.
- A sentence of 15 to 60 years and a fine of up to $500,000 or the street value of the drug for more than 900 grams of heroin, cocaine, or morphine.
Other factors that impact and can increase the sentencing are:
- The use and discharge of firearms while committing the crime.
- Delivery of drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, park, or church.
- The involvement of minors in the crime.
Can Felony Drug Charges Be Dropped?
How to Win a Felony Drug Case
Being arrested for a felony drug charge does not mean you will be convicted. If handled correctly, you can win a felony drug case and have your charges dropped or at least reduced.
The prosecution carries the burden of having to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed a drug-related crime and that you intended to commit that criminal act. You can win a felony drug case based on defenses that could result in reduced charges, their dismissal, or your acquittal at trial.
Your drug felony defense attorney does not have to prove you are innocent—only that there is reasonable doubt that you committed the crime. Your attorney should look at how closely the authorities followed the rules when arresting and charging you with a crime and whether there was a lack of evidence or if witnesses are unreliable and can be discredited. If there were any abuses of your rights, such as failure to read you your Miranda right to remain silent, or any violations in handling evidence, your attorney will seek to have the charges against you dismissed. Your attorney will also do as much as possible in pre-trial negotiations to have charges against you lessened or dismissed.
Here are some defenses a good criminal lawyer may use to have your charges dropped:
- At the time of the alleged crime, you were insane and not responsible for your actions. You did not understand what you were doing and could not tell the difference between right and wrong.
- Police or prosecutor misconduct caused your arrest. You were entrapped, evidence was falsified or tampered with, or police knowingly made false claims. You were targeted because of your color, race, ethnicity, or national origin. Evidence showing you are innocent was withheld from you and your lawyer.
- Your actions were the result of a mistake. You did not intend to commit a crime.
- Evidence should be excluded from the trial. Police did not have sufficient grounds to pull your car over or search you or your vehicle, or their search warrant was improperly issued. You were not read your Miranda rights so answers to questions should be excluded from trial. The prosecution may be unable to show the chain of custody of the evidence, which may mean it was tampered with or mishandled. Drug testing was not done with proper protocols and results are not trustworthy.
How to Get a Felony Drug Charge Reduced
In some cases, you may be able to beat a felony drug charge by negotiating to have your charges and punishments significantly reduced. Your attorney may be able to negotiate with prosecutors and produce a favorable plea bargain agreement. Through a plea bargain, the person accused of a crime agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for having the prosecutor agree not to pursue the felony charges.
Prosecutors want to avoid costly, lengthy trials if possible, and it is usually in your best interests to do so as well. As a result, most criminal charges are not resolved at a trial. They may be:
- Dismissed on technical grounds early in the process.
- Withdrawn because the judge excludes disputed evidence, weakening the case.
- Dismissed due to a plea bargain agreement.
A plea bargain could be the right choice for both sides. You avoid the risk of being found guilty and facing stiff penalties. The prosecution prevents a waste of resources on a trial that may result in an acquittal. A good criminal defense lawyer can examine all defense options and help you decide what is best for you.
Get the Defense You Need from Attorneys You Can Trust
If you’re accused of or are under investigation for a felony drug crime in Illinois, the attorneys for drug charges at Wolfe & Stec Ltd. can help. We are skilled trial lawyers who understand that your case is unique. When we take on a criminal case, we gather information quickly and look at all defense options. Based on the facts, we make a decision about the best legal strategy and start taking steps to beat your drug felony charges.
Wolfe & Stec Ltd. will:
- Aggressively pursue every avenue for your defense.
- Investigate your case.
- Test witnesses’ credibility.
- Try to exclude evidence.
- Work with you throughout the criminal process.
We will explain the law and the criminal justice system. Our attorneys will listen to your side of the story and treat you with respect, and we will handle your defense aggressively right from the start. Our goal is to reduce the negative impact of the situation and focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties, and rights.