Minor in Possession of Narcotics or Drugs
When you or someone you loved is charged with drug possession, it can be a stressful, intimidating, and embarrassing situation. Those emotions are elevated to a completely different level when you or your loved one is a minor. Unfortunately, the criminal penalties for drug possession are serious no matter your age, so minors charged with possessing narcotics or drugs need to act quick to ensure that they are adequately prepared for the battle that is coming down the road. The reality is that one small mistake can lead to a series of lifelong consequences, and the information below is just the starting point for your preparations. Hiring a skilled drug crime attorney would be the first step to protect your freedom.
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 (which are listed in 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, GHB (the date-rape drug), and peyote.
Schedule II substances (which are listed in 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, such as lower-potency morphine or anabolic steroids, and schedule IV substances, 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 include many over-the-counter drugs like cough syrups and cold medicines. These usually present a relatively low likelihood of addiction and abuse.
Fortunately, most judges understand the importance of focusing sentences for minors on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Unfortunately, that rehabilitation-focused treatment is never a guarantee, and judges are afforded a significant amount of discretion in tailoring sentences for minors. It’s important to understand the key factors judges emphasize in exercising that discretion from the moment you are charged to ensure that all of the positive sentencing options are on the table from the beginning.
Like sentences for adults, sentences for minors convicted of drug or narcotic possession depend on a variety of factors, including the type of substance possessed, the quantity of substance possessed, and past criminal history. Most seriously, a court may order a juvenile into detention, which could involve placement in a juvenile detention center, a juvenile home, home confinement, or a foster family or guardianship.
If a judge doesn’t order the minor into detention, he or she may place a minor on probation. Although the term “probation” gets thrown around a lot, many minors and their parents really don’t know what to expect if probation is ordered. Judges will impose various conditions for a set period of time that could be up to several years. During that time, a minor will likely have to perform a certain amount of community service, attend rehabilitation programs, and report to a probation officer.
In addition to those sentences, a conviction for possession narcotics or drugs can impact your life in numerous other ways as well. Perhaps most relevant is the impact an offense could have on your driver’s license. Depending on the details of an offense, your license could be restricted, suspended, or even revoked. An offense could also impact your education. If, for example, you’re convicted of possession at or near a school, you’ll likely face the possibility of a significant suspension or even expulsion. The same is true for college. Many universities require all applicants to identify criminal convictions, and the federal government considers convictions when making financial-aid decisions as well. The impact extends to your employment, too. Whether it’s your employer doing a background search or a licensing board considering your application, past criminal convictions for drug or narcotic possession can have a lifelong impact in almost every area of life.
Alternative Sentencing Options
While it’s true that Michigan’s law enforcement and courts treat criminal offenses, especially those involving minors, very serious, it’s also true that Michigan law provides for several alternative sentencing options for minors that can be taken advantage of under the right circumstances.
Holmes Youth Trainee Act
The Holmes Youth Trainee Act (often referred to as “HYTA”) allows minors charged with certain criminal offenses to avoid the conviction being placed on his or her record. Although HYTA’s application depends on several facts and circumstances, minors can usually be eligible if they are charged with committing a criminal offense after turning 17 years old but before turning 21. Generally, you will plead guilty and then, so long as you comply with the judge’s orders for the set probationary period, the conviction will not show up on your permanent record. HYTA, of course, comes with limitations and cannot be relied on if you’re charged with a felony punishable by life in prison, various major controlled-substance offenses, or traffic offenses.
Separate from HYTA, under MCL 333.7411, minors may be eligible for a one-time, so-called “7411 deferral.” A 7411 deferral allows someone who pleads guilty to drug possession have that guilty plea dismissed after successfully completing a probationary period. Like HYTA, the successful completion of probation ensures that the conviction will not appear on your permanent record. In addition to ensuring the dismissal of the charges, a 7411 deferral ensures that there will be no public record of the accusations, that there will not be the otherwise mandatory license suspensions that come with drug-possession offenses, and that there won’t be a need to go through the time-consuming expungement process. As indicated above, though, 7411 deferrals are only available to first-time offenders, and they cannot be used in cases where you’re accused of delivering, manufacturing, or selling narcotics or drugs.
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?
- Are you eligible for HYTA status or a 7411 deferral?
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
It’s important that you don’t forget that, by the time you’re charged as a minor in possession of narcotics or drugs, law enforcement and the prosecutor have already spent a significant amount of time, effort, and expense preparing the case against you. 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 right away.