Drugs / Narcotics Offenses
No area of criminal law contains as broad a spectrum of penalties and classifications than crimes associated with drugs and narcotics. Ranging from a 90-day misdemeanor for the use of marijuana to lifetime felonies for the manufacture or delivery of certain controlled substances, Michigan law is highly nuanced and extremely technical in how it categorizes and penalizes narcotics offenses.
Distinguishing Narcotics Offenses
Generally speaking, Michigan law classifies drugs based upon their narcotic severity, organizing them in to schedules. These schedules can be found at MCL 333.7212. Once the substance has been identified, then the question turns to in what manner the defendant was associated with the particular substance – did he “use” it, “possess” it, “manufacture” it, or “deliver” it (or any combination of the four). Also impacting this analysis is in what manner the defendant intended to use the particular substance – as in many cases defendants are prevented from completing the crimes they intended to commit through no choice or act of their own.
Several factors are considered by the courts when determining how a defendant intended to use a particular substance – whether he or she possessed it for personal use or intended to manufacture or deliver it (a much more serious offense). These include:
- The quantity of the controlled substance
- The manner in which it was packaged
- The location of the controlled substance when it was discovered
- The presence (or absence) of delivery- or manufacture-related items, e.g. baggies, scales, etc.
- The presence (or absence) of significant amounts of cash
- Observance of hand-to-hand transactions at the time of the offense
Collateral Consequences of Drug Convictions
Further complicating drug crimes under Michigan law are the collateral consequences these offenses can have on other aspects of defendants’ lives. For example, many drug convictions carry with them mandatory driver’s license suspensions. There are also potential implications on a defendant’s immigration status if he or she is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the United States and is found guilty of a drug offense.
Finally, if a defendant has been charged with manufacturing and/or delivering a controlled substance, often the police will have seized items deemed products of the sale of narcotics – such as stereos, TVs, video games, motor vehicles, cash, etc. – as well as items believed to be used in the delivery and/or production of the illegal drugs. This will require a separate action in civil court to recover these items as part of a civil forfeiture case.
Michigan Medical Marihuana Act
In 2008, Michigan voters approved the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA), which allows for the manufacture and use of marijuana for medical purposes. Still fairly new, the MMMA has spawned a tremendous amount of litigation in an effort to flesh out who exactly is protected under the law and to what extent. Highly controversial, law enforcement agencies and county prosecutors are taking vastly different approaches to policing and prosecuting these cases, some operating more heavy-handedly than others. You can read up on the most current and prominent court decisions affecting the rights of medical marijuana users and providers here on our monthly blog.
For all these reasons, the best first step you can take for yourself if you’ve been charged with a drug crime in Michigan is to consult a seasoned attorney like the attorneys at the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC. The Peter J. Johnson Law Office brings with it over 45 years of litigation experience in the field of criminal law, with a substantial portion of its background related to defending drug offenders. Because many more courts are taking a rehabilitative approach to drug offenses, it’s important that you find an attorney who knows how to argue for the outcome you need, which in many cases could make the difference between a drug treatment program and prison.
Contact the Peter J. Johnson Law Office today for your free consultation about your drug or narcotics case. If you don’t reach an attorney right away, we guarantee a callback within 24 hours. Few law firms these days can offer that kind of promise, but serving our clients is something very important to us. You deserve answers today.