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If an individual is found guilty of a criminal drug charge, they might risk grave criminal sentences. Michigan courts consider drug crimes to be quite serious, and without the representation of a qualified attorney, you could be unjustly convicted and sentenced to uncompromising punishments. Drug crime sentences are dependent on the narcotic possessed, the amount in question, and other specific details of the case, and it is crucial to consult a defense lawyer that understands all the legal issues that might sway your results.

Drug Crime Charges in Michigan

Possessing or selling drugs in Michigan is taken incredibly seriously, and those who are arrested and charged with a drug crime will face potentially severe penalties. With the wide variety of controlled substances as well as different levels of possession or sale, there are numerous different drug crimes a person can be charged with. It is imperative anyone who is charged with a drug crime speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. Before doing that, learn more about the potential drug crime charges used in Michigan and what the potential penalties are if convicted.

Drug Possession

Drug possession is simply having an illegal substance, even if it is a very small amount. The drugs do not even need to be on the person for this to apply. If the drugs are within the person’s reach, inside their home, or in their vehicle, the person can be arrested and charged with possession. This can be a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the type and amount of drugs the person has when they’re arrested.

Drug Distribution and Sale

Distribution charges come into play when someone is accused of selling, giving, or delivering an illegal substance to someone else. Money does not need to exchange hands for this to apply and it’s not necessary for the person to be caught in the process of giving the drugs to someone else. If they have the drugs split into smaller amounts or have certain paraphernalia like scales to weigh the substance, the person can be charged with distribution. This is a felony charge, so the potential penalties are severe.

Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking is different from distribution and giving or selling drugs is not necessary for this charge. To be charged with trafficking, the person simply needs to have a large quantity of the illegal substance. This is an elevated possession charge, so it will be a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

Drug Cultivation or Manufacturing

These charges come into play when there is evidence that an unlicensed person grew drug-producing plants like marijuana plants or manufactured illegal substances in their home. Even if this was done without the intent to sell and the amounts were small, it is still considered cultivation or manufacturing and could lead to felony charges. These charges can apply even if the illegal substance itself isn’t found, as long as there is evidence that the illegal substance was grown or made by the arrested person. It is now legal to grow marijuana plants in Michigan, but there is a limit to how many plants can be grown per household, and growing more than that amount can lead to charges.

Maintaining a Drug House or Drug Vehicle

It is illegal to have a dwelling or vehicle used for the sole purpose of using, storing, selling, or delivering controlled substances. If a home or vehicle is used almost exclusively by people who want to do illegal substances, is used to store or sell illegal substances, or used for cultivation and manufacturing of illegal substances, the owner or tenant in control of the building or vehicle faces charges against maintaining a drug house or drug vehicle. These can be felony charges.

Habitual Drug Offenders

Michigan has enhanced penalties for those who are considered habitual drug offenders. If someone already has a drug conviction on their record and they are arrested again, the penalty can be enhanced. The potential penalty can be twice what it would be for a first offense. This means that if the typical sentence for a crime is one year in jail, if the arrested person is considered a habitual drug offender, they face up to two years in jail for the second and subsequent convictions.

Misdemeanor Drug Charges

Drug charges are considered misdemeanors if they are punishable for up to one year in jail. Most of the time, misdemeanor drug charges include possession of small amounts of illegal substances. In most cases, the fine for a misdemeanor charge is less than $1,000. Misdemeanors do stay on the person’s criminal record, so they can make it more difficult to obtain employment or rent a home in the future. Those charged with a felony may accept a plea deal to reduce the charges to misdemeanors. This reduces the potential penalties and any impact on the person’s future, but they will still have a criminal record.

Felony Drug Charges

Felony charges are those that are punishable by a year or longer in prison. Many drug crimes are automatically felony charges. These include the possession of certain drugs like heroin or illegal prescription drugs, the sale of illegal drugs, and drug trafficking. Felonies are broken into eight categories, from A to H, with A being the most serious. A class A felony could be punishable by up to life in prison. A class H felony, the lowest, is often punishable by a year in prison. When someone is convicted of a felony, on top of having a felony on their criminal record and severe penalties, they also face the loss of certain rights. This includes the right to vote while incarcerated and the right to own firearms for at least three to five years after the prison sentence is complete.

Potential Sentences Depending on the Charges

The potential sentences can vary based not only on the type of charge but on the drugs involved, as well.

  • Marijuana – Marijuana possession is legal in Michigan for medical and recreational use. It is also legal to grow marijuana plants, but there is a maximum of 12 plants per household. Possession on federal lands, however, is a misdemeanor and punishably by up to one year in jail or $1,000 in fines, as marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. 
  • Prescription Drugs – The possession of prescription drugs can lead to up to four years in jail and $25,000 in fines, or more for higher amounts. Distribution can include up to 40 years in jail and up to $25,000 in fines.
  • Methamphetamine – Methamphetamine possession can lead to up to 10 years in prison and $15,000 in fines as it is a felony. Distribution charges range up to 20 years in jail and $25,000 in fines.
  • Cocaine or Crack – Depending on the amount in question, possession can include up to life in prison and up to $1 million in fines. Distribution can lead to the same penalties, again depending on the amount being distributed.
  • Heroin – Heroin possession can be up to four years in jail or up to $25,000 in fines, with the amount increasing for larger amounts. Distribution can include up to 20 years in jail and $25,000 in fines.

Multiple Drug Charges Simultaneously

Someone can face multiple drug charges at the same time. If someone had two or more types of drugs on them when they were arrested, they can be charged with possession of each type of drug. This can lead to more serious penalties, especially if they had larger amounts of each drug on them at the time of the arrest. Defendants can also be charged with possession and distribution at the same time, depending on the situation.

A lawyer is always necessary to fight drug charges. Being caught in the possession of drugs does not automatically lead to a conviction, but the potential is high, especially without proper legal representation. If you have been arrested and charged with any drug crimes in Michigan, you are facing serious and severe penalties if convicted. Contact a lawyer immediately to get help with your case and to try to get a better outcome for the case and your future.

FAQs About Drug Crimes in Michigan

Drug crime charges can be complicated due to the vast number of different charges in the laws today. This means that those who are arrested and charged with a drug crime may have a lot of questions about the charges, what to do next, and how to handle the situation. It is a good idea to contact an attorney as soon as possible after the arrest, but the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions are below.

Is it Possible to Avoid a Conviction?

Yes. Even if someone is caught in possession of drugs or during the sale of drugs, it may be possible to avoid a conviction. If there is not sufficient evidence, which can happen if the evidence is suppressed, the charges can be dismissed. An attorney is needed to have a chance at avoiding a conviction, especially if there seems to be significant evidence for the case.

Should I Plead Guilty if I Did What I’m Accused Of?

No. It is always better to speak with a lawyer first and to see if there is a way to defend against the charges. Even if the case seems hopeless because of the amount of evidence, it may be possible to have the evidence suppressed or to defend against the charges in a different way. Pleading guilty removes the chance to attempt to avoid a conviction and can impact the rest of your life, so it’s better to get help from a lawyer before pleading.

Can I be Charged with Possession, Distribution, or Trafficking if the Drugs Were Someone Else’s?

Yes. Someone can be charged with a drug crime if they were involved in any way, even if it was unintentional. If a driver has drugs in the glove box of the vehicle and they are pulled over and searched, the person in the passenger seat may be charged with possession because the drugs were within their reach, even if they didn’t know about them. It may be possible to defend against the charges and avoid a conviction, but charges are possible.

Can I be Charged with Possession, Distribution, or Trafficking if I am the Owner of the Home or Vehicle?

This depends on the situation, but it could be possible for a home or vehicle owner to be charged even if they did not know the drugs were in their vehicle or home. It is necessary to speak with an attorney if this happens, as they may be able to defend against the charges and help the owner avoid a conviction.

What are the Repercussions I May Face if I’m Convicted Beyond the Sentence?

The sentence imposed by the courts is just a part of the repercussions someone can face if they’re convicted of a drug crime. Whether the case is a misdemeanor or felony, the person faces time in jail and could potentially lose their job or be unable to work in their field anymore. If the person is going to college, they may be unable to obtain student loans in the future. If the conviction is for a felony, the person loses certain rights, like the right to vote while they’re incarcerated or the right to own firearms after their release.

Will I be Considered a Habitual Offender?

If you have a previous drug crime conviction on your record, it is possible that a conviction now will lead to sentencing based on the habitual offender status. This means you can potentially face double the penalties. If the charge is typically punishable by a year in jail, you now face up to two years in jail. It’s imperative you speak with an attorney to attempt to minimize the potential for another conviction and the more severe penalties that habitual offenders face.

What is Considered a Controlled Substance?

A controlled substance is any drug that is either completely illegal to possess or that requires a prescription to possess. The drug schedule lists the various drugs and narcotics that are illegal to possess in the United States, including those that may be legal with a prescription, and includes five different categories. These categories are the same federally, even if state penalties can vary.

What Are the Different Schedules of Drugs?

There are five schedules of drugs, which classify the different drugs someone can be arrested for possessing or selling. These include the following.

  • Schedule I – These are substances that are often abused, have no medical use and are not safe to use under medical supervision. They include LSD, ecstasy, and heroin.
  • Schedule II – These are substances that have a high potential for abuse, but that do have acceptable medical uses. These include cocaine, opium, methamphetamines, and oxycodone.
  • Schedule III – These are substances that have some potential for abuse but where the abuse can lead to a dependency. These include morphine, ketamine, some steroids, and some codeine mixes.
  • Schedule IV – These substances have some potential for abuse, some accepted medical use, and some risk of dependency, though lower than schedule III drugs. These include Ativan, Xanax, Valium, and Ambien.
  • Schedule V – These are substances with the lowest potential for abuse, accepted medical use, and a lower potential for dependency. They include Lyrica, Motofen, and cough syrup.

What Are Possible Defenses to Drug Crimes?

There are many possible defenses to drug crimes depending on the situation when the arrest occurred. The prosecution does need to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction, so creating some doubt can lead to a not guilty verdict. This can be done by showing the person didn’t know the drug was in their possession, that the person did not have control over the drugs, or that the substance was misidentified and not an illegal drug.

Other defenses can center around how the person was stopped, whether the search was legal, or whether the arrest was legal. A lawyer may be able to argue that a search was illegal and, if so, the evidence from it cannot be used against the arrested person. When this is the case and the evidence is suppressed, there may no longer be sufficient evidence for a conviction, so the charges may be dismissed. This is why it’s crucial to hire a lawyer, as most people will not be able to determine whether everything done from the decision to stop them to the collection of evidence was done correctly.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Handle my Case?

Yes. It is not required for a defendant to have a lawyer, but it is difficult and inadvisable to try the case pro se or without representation. A lawyer has experience defending against drug crimes and knows what to look for to defend against the charges. Even if the person is guilty of the charges, it may be possible to avoid a conviction or to accept treatment and parole in lieu of a conviction. There is quite a bit a lawyer can do to help with the case, even if it seems hopeless because the arrested person was caught with drugs.

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a drug crime, you likely have many questions about the charges you’re facing, potential penalties, and more. The questions and answers here can help, but you’ll want answers that are more specific to your situation. Speak with a criminal defense attorney right away to get the answers you need and learn more about the possible outcomes of your case. By hiring an attorney, you could be able to minimize the impact this will have on your life now and in the future. Contact Weise Law today to get the answers and information you need to move forward and handle the case. (616) 931-7030

We can defend you in all types of criminal charges including felony, misdemeanor, and juvenile cases throughout West Michigan.

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