Prosecutors in Minnesota have a reputation for aggressively pursuing felony drug cases. These charges can lead to years in prison as well as the lifelong recognition of being a convicted felon.
There are other serious implications that come with a felony drug charges outside of a potential jail term. If convicted, you could experience issues in your personal life that go beyond the penalties written into the statute.
Drug convictions are difficult, but they are also never guaranteed. You have the right to fight back against the criminal charges you are facing, and an attorney from Gerald Miller could help. Let our attorneys help you build the strongest defense possible in your felony drug case. Call the attorneys of Gerald Miller today to get started and beat your felony drug charges in MN.
Understanding Drug Possession Charges in Minnesota
The possession of most controlled substances is treated as a felony in Minnesota. As is the case in most jurisdictions, it is illegal to possess a controlled substance outside of limited circumstances. The penalties for a felony drug offense vary by the class of the substance.
In order for the prosecution to obtain a conviction, they must meet the minimum burden of proof that you were in possession of a controlled substance. Most of these cases involve the physical possession of a controlled substance. Physical possession involves having the substance on your person.
Possession can also be constructive. Constructive possession occurs when an individual knows a controlled substance is in the vicinity and has control over it. An example of constructive possession could include a controlled substance hidden under a bed.
What Are Aggravating Factors?
Aggravating factors are also important to determining the jail sentence in a felony drug case. Aggravating factors are factual circumstances that could increase the penalty of a drug conviction beyond the standard sentencing range. Aggravating factors are governed Minnesota Statute Section 152.01. The aggravating factors identified in the statute include:
- the defendant, within the previous ten years, has been convicted of a violent crime;
- the offense was committed for the benefit of a gang;
- the offense involved separate acts of sale or possession of a controlled substance in three or more counties;
- the offense involved the transfer of controlled substances across a state or international border and into Minnesota;
- the offense involved at least three separate transactions in which controlled substances were sold, transferred, or possessed with intent to sell or transfer;
- the circumstances of the offense reveal the offender to have occupied a high position in the drug distribution hierarchy;
- the defendant used a position or status to facilitate the commission of the offense, including positions of trust, confidence, or fiduciary relationships;
- the offense involved the sale of a controlled substance to a person under the age of 18 or a vulnerable adult;
- the defendant or an accomplice manufactured, possessed, or sold a controlled substance in a school zone, park zone, correctional facility, or drug treatment facility; or
- the defendant or an accomplice possessed equipment, drug paraphernalia, documents, or money evidencing that the offense involved the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, or possession of controlled substances in quantities substantially larger than the minimum threshold amount for the offense.
The Penalties for Felony Drug Charges
In total, there are five degrees of Felony Drug Charge penalties under state law. These degrees are listed numerically. A first-degree offense carries the steepest penalty while a fifth-degree offense carries the lightest. Because each of these cases are treated as felonies, any conviction could result in lengthy incarceration in state prison.
It is important to remember that the state has the power to reduce these charges or dismiss them entirely. It is not unusual for prosecutors to bring the wrong degree or charges or even prosecute without enough evidence to obtain a conviction. Our attorneys could help you not only fight for a dismissal of your charges also to have your charges reduced.
First-Degree Drug Offenses
The steepest penalties for drug possession are reserved for first-degree offenses. A first degree offense applies to the possession of:
- 50 kilos of marijuana
- 500 or more marijuana plants
- 50 grams or more of cocaine
- 50 grams or more of methamphetamine
- 25 grams or more of heroin
A conviction for first-degree drug possession can lead to as much as 30 years in state prison. Additionally, there is a maximum fine of up to $100,000 that applies in these cases.
There are situations where the penalties for first-degree drug possession could be higher. Aggravated first-degree drug possession can lead to a minimum prison term of 86 months and a maximum term of 40 years. The fine for aggravated first-degree drug possession in $1,000,000. There are two situations where aggravated first-degree drug possession is the appropriate charge. In addition to meeting the elements of first-degree drug possession, the state must also prove that either two aggravating factors are present or the defendant used a firearm in the offense.
Second-Degree Drug Offenses
Near the top of the list for drug offenses is second-degree possession. These charges represent some of the steepest penalties available for drug possession crimes. Second-degree drug possession is penalized by as much as 25 years in state prison and a fine of no more than $500,000.
This offense is similar to first-degree drug possession, but the amounts in question are lower. A conviction for second-degree drug possession is appropriate for the possession of 25 or more kilos of marijuana, 100 or more marijuana plants, 25 or more grams of cocaine or methamphetamine, or 50 or more grams of narcotics.
Third-Degree Drug Offenses
The offense of third-degree drug possession is related the possession of certain controlled substances within proximity to a school, park, or other sensitive area. In order to be convicted of third-degree drug possession, you must be found to have possess 10 or more kilos of marijuana, 3 or more grams of heroin, or 5 or more doses of a Schedule I or II narcotic in a school, park, drug treatment facility, or public housing. A conviction of third-degree drug possession will lead to a maximum prison term of 20 years as well as a fine of up to $250,000.
Fourth-Degree Drug Offenses
Fourth-degree drug possession cover the possession of any amount of schedule I, II, or III controlled substances with the intent to sell with the exception of marijuana. Additionally, this offense covers up to 10 doses of hallucinogen.
Fifth-Degree Drug Offenses
The lowest tier of drug possession cases in Minnesota is known as fifth-degree drug possession. This offense is still a felony, and a conviction could results in years behind bars as well as costly fines. The maximum prison term for this offense is five years, and the fine must not exceed $10,000. This offense is appropriate for the possession of any amount of Schedule I, II, III, or IV controlled substances, with the exception of less than 42.5 grams of marijuana.
Are There Misdemeanor Drug Offenses in Minnesota?
The vast majority of drug charges under Minnesota law are treated as felonies. While prosecutors aggressively pursue these cases, there are certain offenses that are treated as misdemeanors. While these offenses carry lesser penalties than a felony, there are still notable consequences for a conviction.
There are only a limited number of misdemeanor drug offenses under Minnesota law. The most lenient of these are known as petty misdemeanors. While a petty misdemeanor is a criminal offense, it does not carry the threat of jail time. Possession of less than 42.5 grams of marijuana is considered a petty misdemeanor.
There are other drug-related misdemeanors that are not related to marijuana possession. Possession of synthetic cannabinoids is treated as a misdemeanor, while the possession of mixtures containing certain Schedule V substances could be treated as a gross misdemeanor.
Talk to an Attorney in Minnesota About Your Felony Drug Charges
If you are facing felony drug charges in Minnesota, now is the time to seek out skilled legal counsel. The right attorney could help you build a defense strategy that could reduce or even eliminate the chances of a conviction. To get started on your case, contact the attorneys of Gerald Miller for a free consultation today.