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3 Factors that Affect Drug Crime Penalties

Drug crimes are among the most common criminal charges prosecuted in the state of Wisconsin. Individuals facing drug charges ranging from simple possession of marijuana to drug trafficking of hardcore narcotics can extend from juveniles and college students to housewives, white collar professionals, and CEOs of large corporations. While the “war on drugs” has been raging for years, street drugs and unauthorized prescription medicines have grown more common. The variety, access to, and proliferation of these drugs has increased with state and federal law enforcement agencies doing everything they can to crack down.

Understanding drug penalties is imperative when facing any state or federal drug charges. At the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella, we have more than 20 years of criminal law experience in understanding and applying drug laws, search and seizure laws, and any other laws that may impact your case and sentencing.

What Are the Important Factors that Affect Drug Conviction Penalties?

Sentencing upon a drug conviction can be a frightening proposition. Below are the factors that can impact how you are sentenced by a court when convicted.

The Type of Drug Involved

Like the federal government, Wisconsin categorizes illegal drugs and their derivatives according to their potential for abuse, their medical value, and their safety. Those that are considered the most addictive, unsafe, and without medical value top the list at Schedule I. The rest of the Wisconsin Controlled Substance categories of drugs continue in a descending order down to Schedule V. Examples of Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy. Cocaine is an example of a Schedule II drug.

Penalties in drug crimes therefore will depend on which Scheduled drug was found in your possession.

The Amount or Weight of the Drug

The next important factor in how penalties will be assessed is the amount or weight of the drug found in your possession. If the amount of the drug was minimal indicating it was for personal use only, that would be considered “simple possession.” However, if the amount or weight of the drug indicated it was for sale or distribution purposes, your charges will reflect that as the more serious crime of possession with intent to sell or distribute. Also, amounts of drugs will lead to different levels of charges under Wisconsin law.

For example, if you are found with less than one gram of cocaine, you will be charged with a Class G felony. One to five grams will be charged as a Class F felony. Five to 15 grams will be charged as a Class E felony while 15-40 grams will be charged as a Class D felony. More than 40 grams of cocaine is charged as a Class C felony.

Each higher class of felony indicates a more serious crime and thus an increased prison term and/or fine. The categories move from Class G as the lowest up to Class C as the most serious. At Class G and F categories, prison sentences range from 10 to 12 ½ years with fines of up to $25,000. At Class E, prison terms can extend up to 15 years with fines of up to $50,000. Class D and C felonies carry prison terms of up to 25 years (Class D) or 40 years (Class C) with fines of up to $100,000.

What Was Being Done with the Drug

The next factor that affect penalties in a drug crime is what was being done with the drug. The various activities in drug crimes can include:

  • Possession
  • Distribution or sales
  • Drug manufacturing as in labs used to create methamphetamine
  • Drug trafficking in which drugs are transported, distributed, and sold on a large scale
  • Drug cultivation as in growing marijuana plants
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia, such as scales, bongs, baggies, etc.
  • Selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, or other place where children congregate

Drug sales, distribution, manufacture, and trafficking are obviously more serious crimes than simple possession and thus will lead to harsher penalties. Furthermore, in these more serious crimes, you may be facing a combination of charges, each of which will have its own penalties.

Get Competent Legal Representation in Milwaukee Drug Crimes

As you can see, drug crime penalties can impact your life for years to come. They can also bring the collateral damage of a permanent criminal record that can impact your ability to gain employment, housing, and other life opportunities. In the face of such penalties, you need a legal professional on your side who knows how to fight for your best outcome. Our firm has handled thousands of criminal cases for decades; we urge you to contact us in your time of need.

Contact us at (414) 882-8382 or request a free case analysis through our online form.