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Understanding Minnesota Controlled Substance Laws

Second-Degree Sale of Controlled Substance: Laws and Penalties in Minnesota


Second-degree sale of a controlled substance in Minnesota carries a sentence of up to 25 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $500,000. Those with previous drug convictions face up to 40 years.

While the penalties are stiff, the state must prove specific elements of the crime to sustain a second-degree sale of a controlled substance charge. If they lack these elements, they may have to charge the defendant under a less severe degree of the sale of a controlled substance.


Additionally, the defense can challenge the state’s evidence. If any evidence is contestable, the case for second-degree sale may melt away.


Gerald Miller, P.A., specializes in drug cases. Our team fights hard against weak cases, flimsy evidence, and unbelievable witnesses. A charge of second-degree drug sales is a long way from a conviction.

What Constitutes Second-Degree Drug Sales in Minnesota

Minnesota divides drug charges into five degrees. Fifth-degree charges are the least serious, and conviction may result in probation. Second- and first-degree charges carry lengthy time behind bars.


You are guilty of selling a controlled substance in the second degree in Minnesota if, on one or more occasions, you unlawfully sell:


  • Within a 90-day period, one or more mixtures totaling three (3) or more grams of heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine
  • Within a 90-day period, one or more mixtures totaling ten (10) or more grams of a narcotic other than heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine
  • Within a 90-day period, one or more mixtures totaling ten (10) or more grams containing amphetamine, hallucinogen, PCP, or 50 or more packaged dosage units
  • Within a 90-day period, one or more mixtures totaling 25 or more kilograms containing marijuana or Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Any amount of a Schedule I or II narcotic to someone under 18 years of age, or employ or conspire to do such
  • Any amount of a Schedule I or II narcotic, LSD, or methamphetamine; one or more mixtures containing methamphetamine or amphetamine; or one or more mixtures totaling five (5) or more kilograms containing marijuana and THC in a school, park, or public housing zone, or a drug treatment facility.


Because these requirements are very specific, the state’s second-degree drug sales case may fail if evidence of one of these conditions is lacking.


For example, the state may charge second-degree drug sales but have weak evidence that the requisite quantity of the substance was sold within the prior 90 days. If we challenge the evidence of the 90-day requirement, that charge may fail.


For instance, to prove the 90-day criteria, the state may rely on the testimony of an informant. However, this informant may lack credibility because he is a convicted career criminal testifying to avoid decades in prison. When only his word is available to prove the 90-day requirement, the charge may fail.

The Degree of a Drug Sale Charge Makes a Difference of Years in Prison

Defense attorneys comb through the state’s evidence in search of weak points that can lead to a case dismissal or justify a lower-degree offense. This process is essential, as the degree makes the difference of many years of incarceration.


The difference in penalties according to the degree is as follows:

First Degree Drug Sales

This charge involves the sale of large quantities of specific controlled substances or specified high-potency drugs. The penalties can include imprisonment for up to 30 years and fines of up to $1 million.


Second Degree Drug Sales

This charge involves the sale of smaller quantities of controlled substances or specified drugs with moderate potency levels. It is punishable by up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.


Third Degree Drug Sales 

This charge involves the sale of smaller quantities of controlled substances or specified drugs with a lower potency level. Penalties can include imprisonment for up to 20 years and fines of up to $250,000.

Fourth Degree Drug Sales

This charge involves the sale of smaller quantities of controlled substances or specified drugs with a relatively low potency level. Penalties can include imprisonment for up to 15 years and fines of up to $100,000.

Fifth Degree Drug Sale

This charge involves the sale of smaller quantities of controlled substances or specified drugs with the lowest potency level. Sentences range from up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Are there Misdemeanor Drug Sale Offenses in Minnesota?

When very small quantities of low-potency drugs are involved, a misdemeanor charge is possible. Misdemeanor drug sales offenses in Minnesota carry up to 90 days in the county jail and fines ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Probation is also a possibility.

Second-Degree Drug Sales Defenses

If you face second-degree drug sales charges, don’t despair. There are many defenses to this charge that can lead to acquittal.


Furthermore, if the prosecution knows you have a strong defense, it may be willing to plea bargain the second-degree drug sales charge down to third-degree or less, saving you years behind bars.


Some second-degree drug sales defense charges include the following:

Lack of Knowledge 

Defendants can contend they were unaware that the substance was illegal or they had no knowledge of the drugs being sold. This defense works well if you can demonstrate that you had no knowledge of the presence of drugs or that you were unknowingly involved in a drug transaction.


Suppose you and a friend were driving in the friend’s car one night when police stopped the vehicle. Suspicious because your friend shows signs of being high, the police call in a drug dog, which indicates drugs are in the vehicle. This gives the police probable cause to search your friend’s car.


The police find enough drugs to sustain a second-degree drug sales charge. However, you were simply a passenger in the vehicle and had no idea your friend was transporting these drugs. In that case, your lack of knowledge justifies an acquittal.

Lack of Possession or Control

Defendants can contend that they had no physical possession or control over the drugs. For example, you may argue that you were present at the scene but had no ownership or control over the drugs being sold.


For example, you may have attended a party where drugs were sold unbeknownst to you. The police raid the party and arrest everyone in attendance. They then accuse you of having been involved in the drug sales, perhaps by pressuring someone who was dealing drugs to give up others.


You could argue that this dealer is lying to get a plea deal for cooperating. You lacked possession or control of the drugs. Therefore, the court must acquit you.

Illegal Search and Seizure

Law enforcement often violates the Fourth Amendment by conducting unlawful searches or seizures. All evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment is “fruit of the poisoned tree” and must be suppressed. If the evidence against you was obtained illegally, we may be able to destroy the state’s case.


For example, suppose the police pulled you over, alleging you were speeding. They have no probable cause to search your vehicle for drugs. The officer requests permission to search your vehicle, and you wisely refuse.


The police then force you from the car and insist that you must have something to hide; otherwise, why would you refuse? The officers search your vehicle and find drugs in the spare tire compartment of the trunk. 


This was an illegal search, and the evidence of the drugs in the trunk must be suppressed.


Entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces or coerces someone into committing an offense that they would not have otherwise committed. Entrapment typically requires showing that you were not predisposed to commit the crime and that law enforcement played a significant role in enticing or pressuring you to do so.


For instance, an undercover narcotics officer may entice you to join a drug sales conspiracy. When you refuse, that officer may engage in entrapment if he then exerts pressure on you to change your mind. For example, he may threaten retaliation if you continue refusing to go along. This is entrapment. 

Chain of Custody Problems

To use drugs as evidence against you, the state must establish an unbroken chain of custody for the seized drugs. If there are doubts about the integrity or handling of the evidence, it may weaken the prosecution’s case.


For instance, during the discovery process, your defense lawyer may discover that the police failed to properly document the chain of custody. As a result, reasonable doubt as to the chain of custody exists, which can result in a case dismissal or acquittal.

Challenging the Substance

The defense may contest the identification and classification of the substance. This defense may involve questioning the accuracy of laboratory tests or raising doubts about the authenticity or quantity of the drugs.


For example, the police may find a suspicious substance in your home while serving a search warrant. If the warrant is valid and the police remained within its confines while conducting the search, it’s unlikely that a judge would throw out the substance as evidence.


But the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance is illegal. It may conduct a lab test to confirm this. However, your defense attorney discovered that the lab test was flawed. This failure to prove that the substance was illegal can destroy the state’s case.


Second-degree drug sale is a serious offense that can land you in prison for many years. If you face such a charge, you need an expert legal defense. Gerald Miller, P.A., are expert in drug crime defenses. Many cases are based on weak evidence, a flawed chain of custody, illegal searches, and flimsy witness testimony.


We fight every step of the way for our clients and never give up the fight. When you face years in prison, you need Gerald Miller, P.A. Call now.


Related Content: Possession of Controlled Substance Laws and Penalties in Minnesota

About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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