People who are arrested on certain drug possession charges in Chicago now have two choices: treatment or sentencing. This year, police will be expanding a diversion program for low-level offenders to the whole city of Chicago based on success on the city’s West Side.
What happened there?
In 2016, Chicago police instituted a diversion program on the West Side to curb the high death rate from fentanyl and heroin overdoses. One report indicated that over 18,000 West Side residents were sent to the hospital for heroin overdoses.
Police hope that the expanded diversion program will reduce repeat drug arrests and get addicts the treatment they need.
What the Program Is
The pilot program dealt with 41 buyers and 46 sellers of mostly heroin. Of those groups, over 90 percent accepted the treatment option. Only two of the buyers were arrested again, and around half of the sellers were rearrested. However, dealers were more likely to enter treatment and stick with it than the buyers.
Both buyers and dealers are eligible for the program as long as they don’t have violent histories. If you are eligible for a diversion program, it’s worth considering so you can avoid the stiff penalties associated with a possession conviction under the Illinois Controlled Substances Act.
How Penalties for Illinois Drug Possession are Decided
The law bases penalties on five different schedules of drugs, as outlined below.
Schedule I drugs have high abuse potential. They are considered unsafe to use in medical treatment and are void of medical use, even if administered by a medical professional. Examples include opiates like heroin, derivatives of opiates, and hallucinogenic substances.
Schedule II drugs also have high abuse potential. They are considered acceptable for use in medical treatment. If these drugs are abused, they present a severe risk for physical and psychological dependence. Examples include opium and coca leaves.
Schedule III drugs have a moderate abuse potential. They are considered acceptable for use in medical treatment. If these drugs are abused, they present a low to medium risk for physical dependence and a high risk for psychological dependence. Some steroids are Schedule III drugs.
Schedule IV drugs have a moderate abuse potential. They are considered acceptable for use in medical treatment. If these drugs are abused, they present a low to medium risk for physical or psychological dependence. Diazepam is an example of a Schedule IV drug.
Schedule V drugs have a low abuse potential. They are considered acceptable for use in medical treatment. If these drugs are abused, they present a low risk for physical or psychological dependence. Schedule V drugs have low amounts of narcotics, including some cough syrups.
How Severe Drug Possession Penalties Can Be
If you are arrested on Chicago’s West Side for possession of 15 grams of heroin, you will face a Class 1 felony charge, since heroin is a Schedule I drug, which is considered most dangerous. That means the possibility of between 4 and 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000 if convicted. As you can see, a diversion program is an excellent alternative to these types of consequences.
Since a drug possession conviction can result in serious consequences, it’s important to contact an attorney as soon as charges are filed against you. An experienced attorney can research what options are available to you, including diversion programs or other defenses that may reduce your penalties and focus on recovery rather than punishment. Contact us today for your free, confidential case review by a skilled Chicago criminal defense lawyer.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.