Heroin and Opiate Abuse and Possession
In recent years, drug prosecution in the U.S. has shifted focus dramatically from marijuana and cocaine to heroin and the abuse of legalized prescription medications, such as opiates. Although the drugs at issue have changed, many aggressive law enforcement tactics remain the same. However, Wisconsin residents who have been charged with possession of heroin or opiates have rights that they may assert and several options that may be available to minimize the consequences. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee drug crime attorney can advise you on which options may be available in your case and fight tenaciously for your rights throughout the legal process.Charges Based on Heroin or Opiate Abuse and Possession
The rise of opiate abuse in Wisconsin is well documented. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, between 2006 and 2014, the number of drug overdose deaths involving heroin or opiates rose from 5% to 33% of the total number of drug overdose deaths in the state.
Opiates come in a variety of forms. The most common and well-recognized illegal form is heroin. However, increasingly, Wisconsin residents are turning to legal prescription versions of opioids in the form of pain relievers. These may include drugs such as oxycodone, morphine, and codeine. Although these drugs may be found in drug store medications such as cough medicine, they require a prescription to be used in larger and stronger amounts. While it is legal to obtain a prescription for these opiates, the abuse of prescriptions or the acquisition of opiates without a prescription is considered a drug offense in Wisconsin because these medications are Schedule II controlled substances under the state’s Controlled Substances Act.Potential Penalties and Defenses
Because of the possibility of death and severe addiction for people who use heroin or opiates without a prescription, the penalties for possession may be severe. The possession of these drugs is treated similarly to possession of other hard drugs like cocaine. If you are found in possession of a schedule I or schedule II narcotic, like an opiate, you may be charged with a felony. Under Wisconsin’s criminal laws, this means that you could face up to three and a half years in prison, as well as fines of up to $10,000. Additionally, drug offenders in Wisconsin may have their driving privileges suspended, may be required to perform mandatory community service, and may be required to pay additional drug abuse surcharges on their fines, which are used to fund drug and alcohol abuse programs.
Much like people charged with other drug offenses, however, defendants facing charges for the possession of opiates are entitled to constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. This means that law enforcement may not attempt to search you, your car, or your home for illegal prescription medications or heroin without a reasonable suspicion and basis for doing so. If you were subjected to an unjustified search, and illegal drugs were found in your possession during the course of that search, you may have a strong defense because that evidence likely would be excluded at trial. Depending on your situation, a skillful criminal defense attorney may be able to craft other strategies on your behalf as well.Alternative Sentencing Options
In some situations, people who are struggling with substance abuse may be eligible for a deferred prosecution agreement, which allows them to avoid a criminal conviction and sentence if they plead guilty or no contest and then satisfy the requirements of the agreement. For example, they may need to attend a drug rehab or treatment program and receive counseling. If a defendant successfully complies with the terms of the agreement, the prosecution will dismiss or amend the charges. Even people who have prior convictions may be eligible in some cases for a deferred prosecution agreement if certain conditions are met. An agreement typically lasts between nine months and three years.
Moreover, drug court rather than a standard adult criminal court may be an option for Wisconsin residents who would be better served by treatment and intervention than incarceration. To be eligible for drug court, a defendant must have no convictions of violent crimes and not have used a weapon during the drug crime at issue. The defendant also must be willing to address their pattern of drug abuse and have identifiable treatment needs. Treatment programs ordered through drug court last at least nine months, and the defendant pleads guilty or no contest in exchange for receiving a reduction or dismissal of the charges when the program ends.Consult a Milwaukee Attorney for a Drug Crime Charge
You should not delay in seeking legal counsel if you are facing prosecution for any type of offense involving controlled substances. Our Milwaukee drug crime lawyer can explore the nuances of your situation and develop a plan to protect your rights. We also represent people who need a marijuana possession attorney or assistance with other drug cases. Reddin & Singer, LLP serves residents of Milwaukee, Mequon, Racine, West Bend, Waukesha, and other communities in Racine, Washington, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Waukesha Counties. Call us at 414-271-6400 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.