Understanding Penalties For Drug Crimes In Illinois

It can be particularly challenging to comprehend all of the criminal statutes related to the possession and/or distribution of drugs. Much of this complexity can be attributed to the simple fact that both Illinois and federal lawmakers have passed their own laws ― essentially creating two systems, each with its own penalties.

This area of the law is even further complicated when state lawmakers elect to take a position on a particular drug that contradicts the stance held by the federal government, such as in the case of medical marijuana. In fact, while many states have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana and marijuana extracts ― including Illinois ― it technically remains illegal under federal law.

Given the inherent complexities of navigating these two distinct systems, it is often advisable for those facing possible drug-crime charges to become acquainted with some of the more significant penalties for drug crimes in Illinois.

Marijuana Laws In Illinois

Despite the fact that Illinois state law permits the use of medical marijuana to treat certain patients, the possession of marijuana continues to be illegal for all other individuals. For instance, the Cannabis Control Act in Illinois states:

  • The possession of 2.5 grams or less of marijuana is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,500
  • The possession of more than 2.5 grams of marijuana, but not more than 10 grams, is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,500
  • The possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana, but not more than 30 grams (roughly one ounce), is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and less than one year in jail
  • A second offense for the possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana, but not more than 30 grams, is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000
  • The possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana, but not more than 500 grams, is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000
  • A second offense for the possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana, but not more than 500 grams, is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000

As these penalties make quite clear, an increase in the amount of marijuana results in a corresponding increase to the potential punishment. In fact, once the amount in possession exceeds 5,000 grams, it is automatically designated a Class 1 felony under Illinois state law, which means it will likely result in a prison sentence of 4 to 15 years.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the penalties discussed thus far are merely for the possession of marijuana, and do not take into consideration those individuals charged with the manufacturing or distribution of the drug ― charges that typically carry greater sentences. For example, under Illinois law, those who knowingly manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent to deliver:

  • Up to 2.5 grams of marijuana, will face a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,500
  • More than 2.5 grams of marijuana, but not more than 10 grams, will face a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and less than one year in jail
  • More than 10 grams of marijuana, but not more than 30 grams, will face a Class 4 felony, which is punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000
  • More than 30 grams of marijuana, but not more than 500 grams, will face a Class 3 felony, which is punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000
  • More than 500 grams of marijuana, but not more than 2,000 grams, will face a Class 2 felony, which is punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000
  • More than 2,000 grams of marijuana, but not more than 5,000 grams, will face a Class 1 felony, which is punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000
  • More than 5,000 grams of marijuana will face a Class X felony, which is punishable by 6 to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000

Additionally, if an individual knowingly brings 2,500 grams or more of marijuana into Illinois, he or she may be charged with cannabis trafficking under state law. This particular offense typically results in a fine and prison sentence of not less than twice the minimum term he or she would have otherwise received under Illinois law for manufacturing and/or delivering marijuana.

Penalties For Other Controlled Substances

Importantly, however, Illinois drug laws address several other controlled substances besides marijuana, including heroin, cocaine and even morphine. Indeed, the Illinois Controlled Substances Act authorizes the following penalties under state law:

  • Anyone found in possession of 15 grams or more of heroin, cocaine or morphine, but less than 100 grams, may be sentenced to 4 to 15 years in prison and fined up to $200,000
  • Anyone found in possession of 100 grams or more of heroin, cocaine or morphine, but less than 400 grams, may be sentenced to 6 to 30 years in prison and fined up to $200,000 or the full street value of the drug, whichever is greater
  • Anyone found in possession of 400 grams or more of heroin or cocaine, but less than 900 grams, may be sentenced to 8 to 40 years in prison and fined up to $200,000 or the full street value of the drug, whichever is greater
  • Anyone found in possession of 400 grams or more of morphine, but less than 900 grams, may be sentenced to 6 to 40 years in prison and fined up to $200,000 or the full street value of the drug, whichever is greater
  • Anyone found in possession of 900 grams or more of heroin, cocaine or morphine, may be sentenced to 10 to 50 years in prison and fined up to $200,000 or the full street value of the drug, whichever is greater

Similar to marijuana-related penalties, Illinois law also prohibits the manufacture and/or delivery of several drugs. In fact, anyone accused of manufacturing, delivering or possessing with the intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance in Illinois may face:

  • A prison sentence of 6 to 30 years, and a fine of up to $500,000, if the alleged crime involves 15 to 99 grams of heroin, cocaine or morphine
  • A prison sentence of 9 to 40 years, and a fine of up to $500,000 or the street value of the drug, if the alleged crime involves 100 to 399 grams of heroin, cocaine or morphine
  • A prison sentence of 12 to 50 years, and a fine of up to $500,000 or the street value of the drug, if the alleged crime involves 400 to 899 grams of heroin, cocaine or morphine
  • A prison sentence of 15 to 60 years, and a fine of up to $500,000 or the street value of the drug, if the alleged crime involves more than 900 grams of heroin, cocaine or morphine

It is important to note, however, that the penalties mentioned so far are simply a small portion of the criminal consequences possible under Illinois law. For instance, Illinois statutes contain many other provisions that address several additional controlled substances, including methamphetamine, fentanyl, LSD and even peyote, just to name a few. As such, the information contained herein is by no means a complete outline of Illinois state drug laws and certainly should not be considered a substitute for expert legal counsel.

Federal Drug Charges Carry Stiff Penalties

As previously mentioned, the punishment for alleged drug crimes are not dictated solely be state law ― federal law may also come into play. And, while the penalties discussed thus far may seem harsh, those imposed under federal law may be even more severe. However, just like Illinois law, federal drug laws are extremely complex and difficult to navigate, which is why it is typically best to seek the counsel of an experienced drug-crime defense attorney if you are facing drug charges.

Knowledgeable legal counsel can fully explain the differences between Illinois and federal criminal charges as well as any corresponding criminal penalties. Additionally, an attorney can help ensure your rights are protected and assist with determining what legal defenses you may have at your disposal, including defenses related to illegal searches and seizures. Given the severity of consequences a drug-crime conviction carries, it is more important than ever to seek expert legal counsel as soon as possible.

Contact Sheppard Law Firm, P.C.

To speak with an experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyer regarding the drug charges you or a loved one face, contact the firm for a confidential consultation. Use the online contact form or call 312-443-1233.