Martin & Kent, L.L.C. Martin & Kent, L.L.C.

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Law enforcement focuses on drugs despite public disapproval

The latest Uniform Crime Report from the FBI shows that law enforcement agencies spend considerable resources arresting people for drugs in Illinois and across the country. In 2016, 1.57 million arrests took place because of drug offenses. Simple drug possession caused 84.6 percent of those arrests. This represented a 5.63 percent increase in drug-related arrests from the year before. The volume of drug arrests exceeded arrests for all violent crimes by a factor of three.

Public opinion, however, has shifted away from the prosecution of drug users. According to a report from the Drug Policy Alliance, the majority of Americans support marijuana legalization and do not want people punished for drug use. Scientific research continually concludes that drug use or possession should not result in jail or prison sentences for people who have not committed other crimes. A joint statement from the United Nations and World Health Organization has promoted the end of labeling drug use as a crime.

In addition to growing public disapproval of drug laws, law enforcement patterns continually reveal discriminatory practices in drug arrests and prosecution. African Americans form 13 percent of the U.S. population, but people in this racial group make up 29 percent of drug arrests and represent 35 percent of inmates in state jails convicted of possession. Meanwhile, African American use of drugs occurs at a similar rate as other racial groups.

A simple traffic stop could result in a person facing drug charges if the police find illegal substances in the car. However, the authorities must have had a reasonable suspicion to believe that some form of criminal activity was taking place in order to make the stop. While this does not have to be drug-related, as it could be something as simple as an expired registration tag, it is often a potential defense that an attorney will utilize.

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