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I'm Facing a Methamphetamine Charge. What Should I do?

Methamphetamine possession charges are common.  They typically start with a vehicle stop that turns into a full scale search of the car.  Sometimes an officer will knock on one's door with a search warrant.  Whatever the manner in which the police first have contact, the fact is, if methamphetamine is discovered, a serious felony charge and high bond will be placed against you.  

Your best actions in these cases can be broken down by the stage of proceedings you are in:

INITIAL CONTACT WITH INVESTIGATORS: Your best advice is to NOT speak with the police.  Don't say anything to them other than you want your attorney and are not speaking with them.  They may try to scare you by telling you that you are looking at prison time and the best thing you can do to help yourself is to tell them everything.  They will most likely try to get you to do some controlled buys where you buy or deliver controlled substances to person they wish to arrest.  Don't speak to them.  The biggest mistake clients often make is talking with them believing that they won't be charged if they do.  The police will tell them things like "You won't be arrested today", or "if you work for us you won't be charged."  These are two of the most often told lies

IN CUSTODY BOND ISSUES:  Bond must be posted when you are in custody on a new felony charge.  If it is a relatively low level felony offense and you have no substantial criminal history you can qualify for a recognizance bond.  In that case you post no money and are released from custody.  Most serious drug charges carry very high bond amounts.  Typically $100,000 or greater is ordered against a person charged with a distribution or intent to distribute charge.  The bond can be modified.  Oftentimes the bond can be dropped substantially in quick order.  Have your attorney talk to the State's Attorney that is in charge of your case and get an informal reduction order in place.  Turnaround in a day is not uncommon.  Bail bondsmen are illegal in Illinois.

PRELIMINARY HEARING: Your first court appearance will be a preliminary hearing (unless you didn't post bond then its called a first appearance).  You have a right to a prompt preliminary hearing.  They are also known as probable cause hearings.  Most of the time the preliminary hearing is waived.  You retain all your rights to defend yourself against the charge up to an during trial.  After the preliminary hearing the case is set on a trial docket.

PRETRIAL MOTIONS: The motion stage is where most cases are either won or lost.  Drug cases are more focused on this step than other charges.  The reason is that a host of Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights come into play during a drug case investigation.  Traffic stops, Terry stops, interrogations, Miranda issues, mandatory videorecording (dash cam and interrogation) and other issues must be presented if they have infringed on the client's rights before trial occurs.  Motions to suppress evidence and for sanctions are two of the most used method to curtail evidence from jury trial.  If you win a motion to suppress in a drug charge case you probably will be in a much better position than had you not.  Many times if you are successful you can completely keep all drug evidence out at trial.  When that happens it means the State loses its case.

TRIAL: You have an absolute right to a jury trial for any criminal charge.  This stage requires excellent advocacy skills and experience to prevail.  There is no substitute for a quality experienced attorney working for you during trial.  Trials depend greatly on the jurors selected to hear the case.  Again, it takes many years of experience to rise to a level that allows you to pick your best jury.  

SENTENCING: If the trial goes the wrong way or you plead guilty there will be a sentencing hearing.  Such a hearing requires the judge to order a Presentence Investigation Report to be prepared by the probation department.  At the hearing you present evidence in mitigation and the State counters with aggravating factors.  All the factors are printed in the corrections portion of the Illinois Criminal Code.  Prior criminal history is presented to the court and taken into consideration.  Arguments are made and the judge takes presumptions into consideration when meting out the sentence.  The sentencing judge has wide discretion as to what the setence will be.  She or he is constrained only by what the minimum and maximum sentences are as defined by statute.

POST-CONVICTION AND APPEALS: After sentencing you have an option to file a post-conviction motion and an appeal.  The issues are very limited in an appeal.  Again, experienced counsel is necessary to succeed at this stage.  All issues raised in either process must be preserved through objection and in writing after the trial.  


All the steps described above apply to every criminal case in Illinois.  Methamphetamine cases are similar to many other charges.  However, methamphetamine cases often carry much higher penalties due to the process of "shake and bake" or "red phosphorous" cooking methods that allow the State to weigh all liquids and include the gross weight in their charges.  This results in very high gram weights which in turn equates to much high class felony offenses.

Brian L. Polinske
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