The Significant Consequences of an Arrest on Opioid Charges
Most people agree that the country is in the grip of an unprecedented opioid-abuse crisis, and Illinois is no exception to a nationwide trend. As in so many states throughout the country, many thousands of Illinois residents battle addiction, particularly opioid addiction. Too often, this addiction leads addicts into a struggle that can cost them their jobs or lead them into legal problems that cost them their freedom. The economic cost to Illinois has reached more than $3.5 billion each year.
Worse than that, more than 5,500 deaths of Illinois residents each year result from the abuse of alcohol or other drugs. That amounts to more than 5 percent of all deaths in the state each year. That level of impact on a state and its society demands a response. The question is, what is that response?
Illinois’s Traditional Law Enforcement Response to Opioids
For years, Illinois has taken a traditional response to opioid offenses, handing out fines and prison on an escalating scale with the more drugs involved, the stiffer the sentence. The law generally treated opioids the same as cocaine, methamphetamine, and LSD. Punishments for the possession of opioids such as heroin and morphine are in the same statutory section as cocaine, meth, and LSD.
Those harsh sentences come with steep fines and prison time. For possession of heroin or morphine, both in the opioid family, these penalties include:
- Possession of less than 15 grams can get you a year in jail
- For possessing 15 grams to 100 grams, you can face fines of $500,000 and six to 30 years in prison
- Possessing 100 to 400 grams can bring a fine of $500,000 or an amount equal to the street value of the drugs, as well as nine to 40 years in prison
- Having 400 to 900 grams puts you in the big time, with fines of $500,000 or the street value of the drugs in addition to 12 to 50 years in prison
- Possession of more than 900 grams can yield a fine of $500,000 or an amount equal to the street value of the drug, with 15 to 60 years in jail.
With fentanyl and prescription opioids such as OxyContin thrown into the mix, the potential for serious tangles with the legal system just goes up. Users of heroin and other opioids have a much greater likelihood of facing criminal charges than do those who don’t use opioids. In fact, a recent study found that only 3 percent of the U.S. population that does not use opioids reported a recent arrest or being on probation or parole, the measure by which the study gauged what it called “criminal justice involvement.” For abusers of prescription painkillers, heroin, morphine, or other opioids, those numbers went up sharply. For those abusing prescription opioids, 20 percent had criminal justice involvement. That number doubled to 40 percent for heroin users.
Authorities in Illinois have long considered heroin among the most abused and dangerous drugs in the state. Chicago’s status as a major transportation hub has made northern Illinois a convenient center for heroin drug traffickers. While many opioid abusers start with prescription opioids, they frequently decide that they are not getting the same relief from those drugs and look for something stronger. This often leads them to heroin, which actually is cheaper, more potent, and more readily available. About three-fourths of heroin addicts started by abusing prescription opioids. The federal government believes the three prescription opiates most likely to lead to opiate abuse are:
Enforcement efforts have focused on all of these drugs, prescription and otherwise, with penalties commensurate with the perceived threat. That, however, might be changing.
Illinois Appears to be Changing Its Opioid-Enforcement Focus
Legislation signed by former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is the first attempt in Illinois to create a comprehensive system of pre-arrest diversions for substance abusers. The new law allows local police departments to create or participate in programs that divert drug abusers to treatment programs rather than arresting them. As a means of combatting the opioid crisis on the individual level rather than simply as a law enforcement issue, the new law encourages police to deflect drug abusers into treatment programs that include housing and community support to help them kick drugs and rejoin society drug-free.
The legislation emulates programs established in Dixon and Lake County, Illinois. Those programs have resulted in significantly lower arrest rates for drug crimes by deflecting offenders from arrest to treatment. The program is pre-arrest, not pre-trial.
Because the program now is available statewide, opioid abusers throughout Illinois could find help instead of an arrest record. The programs not only help opioid abusers avoid an arrest record, but it also gives them a path away from addiction. While this is obviously a significant development from a public health standpoint, it also can provide a non-criminal pathway for people facing arrest for opioid-related offenses.
After an Arrest for Opioid-Related Offense in DuPage, Kane, or Cook County, Call the Criminal Attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C.
If you are facing any type of opioid-related drug charges, you may end up with a felony conviction on your permanent record and face lasting consequences. You need to seek the best defense you can get. Call the criminal attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C. With experience as both felony prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys, they have a unique insight into the criminal justice system and will put forward an aggressive defense on your behalf. They are committed to obtaining the best possible result in every case. For a consultation in DuPage, Kane, or Cook County, contact them 24 hours a day at (630) 474-8000.