Chicago Marijuana Lawyer
The possession, cultivation, or distribution of any amount of marijuana is illegal in Illinois. However, there is now a scientific consensus that the dangers of marijuana pale in comparison to legal drugs such as alcohol or tobacco. In response to scientific and legal evidence, Illinois recently joined several other states that have passed decriminalization or legalization laws. An Illinois law to decriminalize marijuana across the state was signed in July 2016 by Governor Bruce Rauner.
Some municipalities, such as Chicago and Cook County, took measures to reduce the penalties for marijuana users long before the decriminalization law was signed. However, many people faced harsh consequences, such as jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record that could have far-reaching effects on their lives.
While the new law does reduce penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana, you will still face significant consequences in some circumstances. For this reason, you should seek the services of a competent and experienced Chicago drug defense lawyer if you are charged with a marijuana crime. He or she may be able to win your case by challenging the constitutionality of the search and arrest that led to the charges or demonstrating that the prosecution’s case does not prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The State of Illinois Has Partially Decriminalized Marijuana Possession
Although marijuana is still officially illegal across the state of Illinois, possession of small amounts has been effectively decriminalized. Decriminalization means that marijuana is still illegal, but that it is treated as a civil offense, like a traffic ticket.
The movement began in 2012, when the City of Chicago passed an ordinance that gave cops the choice of issuing a ticket instead of arresting people caught with less than 15 grams of marijuana. The fines range from $250 to $500. There is no guarantee that the police will choose to issue a ticket in your case, and if you get caught smoking pot in a park or near a school, it is almost certain that you will face criminal charges for possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana.
In April 2015, the Cook County state attorney’s office announced that it was overhauling the manner in which it will prosecute marijuana and other common drug offenses. According to spokeswoman Sally Dally: “If someone is caught with a misdemeanor amount of marijuana, the state’s attorney’s office will not prosecute that case.”
In practice, this means that if you get caught with less than 30 grams of cannabis within Cook County, and you have fewer than three arrests or city tickets for marijuana possession, you may still get arrested but the prosecutors will not issue possession charges.
For people with more than three offenses or who get caught with a felony amount of marijuana, the Cook County state attorney’s new policy is to send the offender to a drug abuse treatment program instead of jail.
The Illinois Penalties for Marijuana Possession
With the new law, Illinois has completely overhauled penalties for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Although each municipality may impose additional fines and penalties, the state will only impose the following:
- Up to 10 grams — A fine of $100 to $200 and a civil citation that would be automatically expunged at set dates twice per year
- Between 10 grams and 30 grams — Misdemeanor resulting in up to 1 year of jail time and/or fines of $2,500
- Between 30 grams and 500 grams — Class 4 felony punishable by 1 to 6 years in prison and/or fines of up to $25,000
- Between 500 grams and 2 kilos — Class 3 felony involving 2 to 10 years in prison and/or fines of up to $25,000
- Between 2 kilos and 5 kilos — Class 2 felony that may result in a 3 to 14 year prison sentence and/or fines of up to $25,000
- More than 5 kilos — Class 1 felony punishable by 4 to 30 years in prison and/or fines of up to $25,000
Subsequent offenses may be punishable at a higher level with greater penalties.
Illinois Penalties for Marijuana Distribution, Manufacturing, and Growing
If you get caught with any quantity of marijuana along with baggies, a scale, or evidence of a grow operation, you could get charged for violating 720 ILCS 550/5, which prohibits knowingly to manufacturing delivering, or possessing marijuana with the intent to deliver. The penalties are as follows:
- Less than 2.5 grams — Class B misdemeanor involving up to 6 months in jail and/or fines reaching $1,500
- Between 2.5 grams and 10 grams, or less than 5 plants — Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year of jail time and/or fines of up to $1,500
- Between 10 grams and 30 grams, or 5 to 20 plants — Class 4 felony resulting in 1 to 6 years imprisonment along with optional fines of up to $25,000
- Between 30 grams and 500 grams, or 20 to 50 plants — Class 3 felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and/or fines of up to $50,000
- Between 500 grams and 2 kilos, or 50 to 200 plants — Class 2 felony involving 3 to 14 years in prison and/or fines of up to $100,000
- Between 2 kilos and 5 kilos, or more than 200 plants — Class 1 felony resulting in a prison sentence of 4 to 30 years in prison and/or fines of $150,000
- More than 5 kilos — Class X felony punishable by 6 to 60 years in prison and/or fines of up to $200,000.
Hiring the Right Chicago Marijuana Lawyer to Defend Against Your Charges
If you’ve been charged with possession of marijuana or possession with intent, you may be tempted to retain the services of the public defender’s office. While your lawyer may be free, he or she will have dozens of other cases and will not have the time to think deeply about how to win your case. Often, the public defender will encourage you to accept a plea bargain, even though you may have a chance of beating your charges.
Receiving jail time and a fine can be devastating, but many convicts find that the long-term consequences of having a permanent entry on their criminal record are the hardest to deal with. Years down the road, your marijuana charge could keep you from getting a job, owning a firearm, or applying for college loans. For this reason, you should consider hiring a skilled and aggressive Chicago criminal defense lawyer to fight the prosecutor’s case against you.
When Chicago criminal defense attorney Michael O’Meara of O’Meara Law LLC takes on your case, he’ll ensure that your rights are respected and that you get a fair trial. Attorney O’Meara will take a close look at the evidence against you and determine whether its use would violate your constitutional rights. If there are any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, he will seek to exploit them so that you can walk away free. If you want to learn more about how Michael O’Meara can help you, call him today at 312-909-0706 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.