Drug Possession Attorney in Michigan
If you or a loved one is charged with drug possession in Michigan, there are likely countless questions running through your head. What happens next? What if it wasn’t mine? Doesn’t it make a difference that it was just a little bit? Am I really looking at jail time? Do I need to hire a drug possession lawyer?
Although recent developments in Michigan law have acknowledged that simply being in possession of a drug doesn’t automatically mean you’re a criminal—including, for example, the recent changes to laws regarding marijuana—the reality is that Michigan remains one of the harshest states when it comes to restrictions on controlled substances. And law enforcement’s effort to enforce those restrictions has resulted in numerous scenarios where prosecutors pursue, and courts impose, the most significant of sentences for seemingly minor drug offenses.
Ultimately, when you or a loved one is facing accusations of drug possession, you need to be informed and be ready to act right away. Having a seasoned drug crime lawyer is a must. The information below is intended to serve as a starting point for your information-gathering and preparation process.
Proving Guilt of Drug Possession
To be convicted of knowingly or intentionally possessing a controlled substance under MCL 333.7403(1), the prosecutor must show three things beyond a reasonable doubt:
- that you possessed a controlled substance,
- that you knew that you possessed a controlled substance, and
- the weight of the controlled substance you possessed.
To prove the first element (possession), a prosecutor is not required to prove that you actually owned the controlled substance. Instead, he or she need only show that you had actual, physical control of the substance or that you had the right to control the substance. The prosecutor can prove the second alternative, often known as “constructive possession,” even when the controlled substance is in another location. Similarly, the prosecutor can prove constructive possession by showing that multiple people jointly possessed the same controlled substance. Mere knowledge of or proximity to the controlled substance, however, is not enough. As the Michigan Supreme Court has explained, courts should ultimately ask whether you had dominion or control over the controlled substance. How that ultimate question is answered can depend a lot of the facts and circumstances of each case. As an example, courts have even went so far as to decide that a man was in constructive possession of a gun and drugs despite being several blocks from the location where they were found.
And then, even if the prosecutor can successfully prove those three requirements, there’s no guarantee that he or she will stop with a so-called “simple possession” conviction. This is because, if able to prove just one more requirement, the prosecutor can ensure a conviction for possession with the intent to deliver under MCL 333.7401. That additional requirement—that you intended to deliver the controlled substance to someone else—can often result in significantly more severe penalties.
Under either scenario, if the prosecutor meets his or her burden of proof, the severity of the sentence a court will impose depends on (among other things) the type and quantity of controlled substance that you were found guilty of possessing.
Schedule I-V Substances
In Michigan, like many other states and at the federal level, controlled substances are organized into “schedules.” Understanding the differences between schedules is important because the length of a potential prison sentence is usually tied to which schedule the controlled substance you allegedly possessed falls in.
Schedule I substances (MCL 333.7212) are considered the most serious because they have the highest likelihood of abuse but serve no legitimate medical purpose. Common examples of schedule I substances include heroin, LSD, ecstasy, the date-rape drug, and peyote.
Schedule II substances (MCL 333.7214), like schedule I substances, are highly addictive and, therefore, can often be abused. But, unlike schedule I substances, they can serve legitimate medical purposes under the right circumstances. Examples of schedule II substances include oxycodone, methadone, morphine, cocaine, hydrocodone, and methamphetamines.
Schedule III substances (MCL 333.7216), such as lower-potency morphine or anabolic steroids, and schedule IV substances (MCL 333.7218), such as Xanax or Valium, are commonly relied on for medical purposes and are considered less likely to result in addiction or abuse. Finally, schedule V substances (MCL 333.7220) include many over-the-counter drugs like cough syrups and cold medicines. These usually present a relatively low likelihood of addiction and abuse.
Possible Penalties for Drug Possession in Michigan
If you’re charged with drug possession, you could be sentenced to up to life in prison and be fined up to $1,000,000 depending on the amount of drugs in your possession and what schedule they’re found in. For example, if you’re convicted of illegally possessing schedule I or schedule II substances, Michigan law (MCL 333.7403) allows courts to impose the following penalties:
|25 to 50 grams||Up to 4 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines|
|50 to 450 grams||Up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines|
|450 grams to 1 kilogram||Up to 30 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines|
|Over 1 kilogram||Up to life in prison and up to $1,000,000 in fines|
In addition to those significant sentences, you could have your driver’s license suspended, you could have a drug offense on your permanent record, you could lose your job, you could lose any professional licenses you may have (like teachers, attorneys, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and other professionals), you could lose your financial aid for school, and you could severely hurt your immigration status. In addition, Michigan law requires enhanced penalties in scenarios where this isn’t your first drug conviction. Instead, you’ll be sentenced as a “habitual offender,” which can mean significantly harsher sentences. And Michigan affords judges broad discretion to tailor someone’s sentence as they see fit, which can vary greatly depending on the judge and the circumstances.
Although there is always the potential for a significant, life-changing sentence in every drug-possession case, a successful defense can often focus on pursuing alternative sentencing to give you or your loved one an opportunity to work through his or her struggles with abuse and addiction.
A Successful Defense
The best approach to responding to being charged with drug possession is one based on experience. Although each case presents its own challenges, our extensive experience has provided us with a solid groundwork for handling charges just like yours:
- Did law enforcement violate your constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures?
- Did law enforcement or the prosecutor violate your constitutional right to the assistance of an attorney?
- Did they ignore or destroy exculpatory evidence?
- Did law enforcement mishandle evidence or make any other common mistakes during their investigation?
- Did you actually have “possession” of the controlled substance?
- Did you have a prescription for the controlled substance?
Attorneys with the necessary experience to work through these questions can often prove to be the difference between a guilty verdict with a lengthy prison sentence and the charges being dismissed or the opportunity to obtain the help you need.
Rely On Our Experience
If you’ve been charged with drug possession, the time to act is now. We’ll partner with you to investigate what led to the charges, we’ll explain what the charges mean and what the consequences could be, and we’ll rely on our extensive experience to pursue the best possible resolution of the charges against you. Contact us online or call us at our 24/7 defense hotline at 1-800-342-7896 today.