I’ve been arrested for drug possession. What’s going to happen?

Possession of a controlled substance is a serious crime in Minnesota. Even possession of a small amount of certain drugs can be considered a gross-misdemeanor or felony-level offense, and the penalties for these crimes can include significant fines and jail time. If you’ve been charged with a controlled substance possession crime in Minnesota, you should consult with a Minnesota Drug Defense Attorney at once to review your case.

Every drug/controlled substance case is unique, and no one can give you exact guidance without reviewing the specifics of your circumstances. This post is intended to provide an overview of Minnesota law as it pertains to drug possession cases generally.

What charge am I facing?

Minnesota has five levels of controlled substance possession crimes (first through fifth degree), with first degree being the most severe, and fifth degree the least. Generally, the amount in weight or dosage of a given drug in one’s possession is what determines the degree of the charge. The chart below outlines Minnesota law for charging based on different amounts of various types of drugs. Note that the charging degrees differ significantly based on whether the charge is a possession or sale allegation.

Other factors include whether there were any aggravating factors (see below) or whether it was a “zone offense,” which means the possession occurred within a park, school, public housing, or drug treatment facility zone.

Controlled Substances Crimes & Penalties – Occurring on/after August 1, 2016

Source: Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission and Minnesota Statute 152

Statute

Sale

Possession

Penalty

Minn. Stat.

§152.021

First Degree

17+ grams cocaine, methamphetamine (meth); 10+ grams cocaine or meth and firearm; 10+ grams heroin; 50+ grams of other narcotics; 200+ dosage units of amphetamine, PCP or hallucinogen; 25 kilos marijuana.

Manufacturing:

Manufacturing any amount of methamphetamine

Aggravated Controlled Substance Crime:

Any §152.021 crime (except sale of marijuana) with firearm or 2 aggravating factors.

50+ grams cocaine, methamphetamine; 25+ grams cocaine, methamphetamine plus weapon or 2 aggravating factors; 25+ grams heroin; 500+ grams of other narcotics; 500+ grams or dosage units of amphetamine, PCP, or hallucinogen; 50 kilos or 500+ marijuana plants.

0-30 yrs.; 4-40 yr. minimum if prior drug felony; up to $1 million fine. Presumptive sentence 65 to 480 months.

Minn. Stat.

§152.022

Second Degree

10+ grams any narcotic drug other than heroin; 3+ grams heroin; 3+ grams cocaine or meth and firearm or 3 aggravating factors; 10+ gram or 50+ dosage units of amphetamine, PCP or hallucinogen; 10+ kilos marijuana; sale of Schedule I or II narcotic drug to a minor; or a zone offense sale of any amount of Schedule I or II narcotic, LSD, MDA, amphetamine, meth, or 5+ kilos of marijuana.

25+ grams cocaine, meth; 10+ grams cocaine, meth and firearm or 3 aggravating factors; 6+ grams heroin; 50+ grams of other narcotics; 50+ grams or 100+ dosage units of amphetamine, PCP or hallucinogen; 25+ kilos or 100+ marijuana plants.

0-25 yrs., 3-40 yr. minimum if prior drug felony; up to $500,000 fine.

Minn. Stat.

§152.023

Third Degree

Any amount of narcotic drug; any mixture containing PCP or hallucinogen equaling 10+ doses; 5+ kilos marijuana; the sale of any Schedule I, II, or III drug (except a Schedule I or II narcotic) to a minor; or employment of a minor to sell the same.

10+ grams of any narcotic drug other than heroin; 3+ grams heroin; any mixture containing a narcotic drug equaling 50+ dosage units; 10+ kilos marijuana; any amount of a Schedule I or II narcotic, or a zone offense possession of a Schedule I or II narcotic, methamphetamine or amphetamine, or 5+ doses of LSD, MDA.

0-20 yrs., up to $250,000 fine.

Minn. Stat.

§152.024

Fourth Degree

Any Schedule I, II, or III drug (except marijuana); sale of Schedule IV or V drug to a minor; employment of a minor to sell a Schedule IV or V drug; zone offense sale of any amount of marijuana, except a small amount for no remuneration.

10+ dosage units of PCP or hallucinogen; any amount of Schedule I, II, or III controlled substance (except marijuana) with intent to sell.

0-15 yrs., up to $100,000 fine.

Minn. Stat.

§152.025

Fifth Degree

Any amount of marijuana except small amounts for no remuneration, or any Schedule IV drug.

Any amount of Schedule I, II, III, or IV drugs except a small amount of marijuana.

1st offense = Gross Misdemeanor if substance is not heroin and amount is less than .25 grams or 1 dosage unit, or substance is heroin and amount is less than .05 grams.

Subsequent: 0-5 yrs., up to $10,000 fine.

What are “aggravating factors?”

Minnesota law outlines ten aggravating factors related to controlled substance crimes. In certain circumstances, the presence of aggravating factors may increase the severity of a controlled substance crime. Aggravating factors include:

  • previous conviction of a violent crime
  • commission of the immediate offense for the benefit of a gang
  • separate acts of sale or possession of a controlled substance in three or more counties
  • transfer of controlled substances across a state or international border into Minnesota
  • three separate transactions in which controlled substances were sold, transferred, or possessed with the intent to sell or transfer
  • the circumstances of the offense reveal the defendant to have occupied a high position in the drug distribution hierarchy
  • use of position or status to facilitate the commission of the offense
  • sale of a controlled substance to a minor or vulnerable adult
  • manufacture, sale, or possession in a school zone, park zone, correctional facility, or drug treatment facility
  • possession of 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 for the offense

What if I’ve been charged with another controlled substance crime?

Other controlled substance crimes include importing across state borders, possession of substances with the intent to manufacture, and sale of controlled substances. These are serious crimes that could carry stiff penalties for conviction. On the other side of the spectrum, even relatively minor offenses such as possession of drug paraphernalia or possession of a small amount of marijuana can also have long-lasting and severe consequences that you will want to discuss with an experienced attorney. Drug convictions can affect a person’s employment, housing, education, and other important aspects of everyday life.

If you’ve been charged with possession of a controlled substance, or any other controlled substance crime, you need the experienced guidance of a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney.

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