Cocaine Sale, Manufacturing, Possession with Intent

Offenses related to the production and dealing of cocaine are especially thorny issues for lawmakers and law enforcement. Billions of dollars are spent in the United States each year combating the drug trade, and law enforcement is constantly pushing the limits of the Constitution in efforts to investigate and arrest people suspected of dealing cocaine and other drugs. Technology brings more and more invasive means of surveillance, and the courts can be slow to keep up with how emerging methods of gathering and scouring information fit into the framework of a citizen’s constitutional and privacy rights.

In Illinois, an arrest for cocaine dealing can lead to devastating consequences for a suspect. If you’re convicted on a charge of selling, delivering, manufacturing, trafficking, or possessing cocaine with the intent to deliver:

  • You could be sentenced to decades in a state penitentiary
  • You could be ordered to pay up to half a million dollars in fines
  • You’ll end up with a permanent felony record that may prevent you from getting a job
  • You may lose your professional license if you’re a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, nurse, teacher, or other licensed professional
  • You may lose your immigration visa or green card, be denied citizenship, or be deported
  • You may lose custody of your children or your visitation rights, especially if you engaged in cocaine trafficking activity in their presence
  • You may lose your right to vote and to possess firearms for a felony conviction

Cocaine charges can be complex and involve high stakes for a defendant. You may effectively receive a life sentence at the top of the sentencing range for this offense. But even a sentence at the lower end of the range can be lengthy and life-changing. People convicted of felonies — especially drug crimes — nearly always experience a societal stigma after serving their sentence that makes it exceptionally hard to rebuild your life once you’ve done your time.

If you’ve been charged with the sale, delivery, manufacturing, trafficking, or possession of cocaine with intent to distribute the drug, you’re likely feeling tremendous stress and uncertainty about your future, your freedom, and perhaps the fate of your family if you go to prison.

However, your situation may not be as bleak as it seems. You may have options for defending your charge with the help of the right Illinois drug defense lawyer who will fight to protect your rights and your future. A skilled lawyer can listen to your story, explain your legal options, and work to get your charge dismissed or reduced.

Defining Cocaine Offenses

Nearly all drug-related charges are serious, but the sale, manufacturing, or possession of cocaine with intent to sell is an especially weighty charge that brings with it harsh punishments in Illinois. Under Illinois statute 720 ILCS 570/401, cocaine trafficking is broken out into a few different actions that can result in felony charges. Those include:

  • Delivery — It is illegal to knowingly sell or distribute cocaine and other controlled substances in Illinois. You can be charged with delivery any time you transfer ownership of cocaine, including for money such as in a sale, or by giving it to someone without receiving anything of value in return.
  • Manufacturing — This refers to the creation or manufacturing of controlled substances, including cocaine.
  • Trafficking — This involves knowingly transporting cocaine into Illinois from another state, or causing it to be transported into Illinois, with the intent of manufacturing or delivering the drug.
  • Possession with intent — This means that someone has cocaine in their possession and is planning to sell or distribute the substance, but they generally haven’t followed through yet.

A prosecutor, in order to prove that someone wanted to sell, manufacture, traffic, or possess cocaine with intent, must generally introduce circumstantial evidence — in addition to the drugs themselves — in order to build a case.

This may include items commonly associated with each of the acts, including baggies, scales, and drug paraphernalia. They must also establish an intent to sell or distribute the drugs, even if no actual sale or transfer took place.

Penalties for an Illinois Cocaine Conviction

The sale, delivery, manufacturing, or possession with the intent to distribute cocaine is a felony with harsh penalties in Illinois. Penalties for a conviction are increasingly severe based on the amount of cocaine involved:

  • 10 to 15 grams — You may be sentenced to 4 to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of up to $250,000
  • 15 to 100 grams — You may be sentenced to 6 to 30 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of up to $500,000
  • 100 to 400 grams — You may be sentenced to 9 to 40 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of up to $500,000 or the street value of the drugs
  • 400 to 900 grams — You may be sentenced to 12 to 50 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of up to $500,000 or the street value of the drugs
  • More than 900 grams — You may be sentenced to 15 to 60 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of up to $500,000 or the street value of the drugs

You may be sentenced to a longer prison term if your offense involved the use of a firearm.

  • Use of a firearm — Adds 15 years
  • Discharge of a firearm — Adds 20 years
  • Discharge of a firearm causing injury or death — Adds 25 years to life

If you are found guilty of trafficking cocaine, you can receive penalties of at least double the minimum prison sentence for sale, delivery, or possession with intent based on the amount of cocaine involved under 720 ILCS 570/401.1. For example, if you are found guilty of trafficking more than 900 grams of cocaine, you could be sentenced to at least 30 years in prison.

Defending Your Cocaine Charges

Charges of selling, delivering, manufacturing, trafficking, or possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute often arise from complex investigations that may include the arrests of numerous individuals based on evidence obtained through wiretaps, surveillance, searches and seizures. Additionally, drug trafficking cases often involve the use of confidential informants.

These investigation methods often are fraught with problems. A search may be conducted without a proper search warrant or without probable cause, or police may have used a wiretap or GPS surveillance of a vehicle without the appropriate court oversight. When investigations don’t follow rigorous procedures, your constitutional rights may have been violated and any evidence obtained through illegal methods may be excluded from court.

An Illinois criminal defense attorney with experience handling serious cocaine offenses will know to scrutinize every aspect of the investigation and evidence being used against you to look for flaws in the process, such as the use of illegal searches. This is probably the most common way that a defense attorney might attack a cocaine prosecution, although it’s far from the only defense strategy.

Each case is unique and the defense strategy that an Illinois drug defense lawyer uses on your behalf will depend on the facts and evidence in your case. However, some common approaches may include:

  • Procedural errors: A great defense attorney will comb through the details of your case to see if charges arose from a flawed investigation, a confidential informant shared incorrect information, or if officials were within their legal rights to conduct an investigation.
  • Legal rights: Evidence can be suppressed or dismissed if officials violated basic legal rights afforded to the accused while seizing the drugs or investigating the case.
  • Circumstances: Prosecutors rely on considerable amounts of circumstantial evidence in trying to prove this charge. A skilled defense lawyer will challenge any and all erroneous assumptions or leaps of logic in defending your case.

How Chicago Drug Defense Lawyer Michael O’Meara Can Help

Chicago criminal defense lawyer Michael O’Meara has a proven track record of helping people accused of drug crimes to achieve desirable results. O’Meara has more than two decades of legal experience that includes both prosecuting and defending drug charges, which gives him an unparalleled understanding of all facets of a criminal case.

O’Meara knows how prosecutors think because he was one. Having worked on countless criminal prosecutions provides invaluable insight into how a prosecutor will construct the case against you — and how O’Meara can counter with a strong defense strategy. He believes passionately in obtaining justice and the best possible result for each person he represents.

If you want an experienced and aggressive lawyer to defend your cocaine trafficking charge, contact O’Meara Law LLC at 312-909-0706 to schedule a free consultation and to learn what he can do for you.