When a person is accused of drug crimes, they need to be aware of the different aspects of the law that can impact them as the case moves forward. The location where the alleged violations took place is one important factor.
Minnesota has certain areas designated as drug free zones. If a drug crime happens in or near one of these areas, the penalties will be harsher than they would otherwise be.
Understanding drug free zones in Minnesota
Accusations of drug-related crimes are more significant when they are said to have happened in a drug free zone. The three locations for drug free zones are parks, public housing projects and schools. Anyone who possesses or sells drugs within 300 feet or one city block of these areas will have violated the drug free zone. The law can also apply to anyone who possesses or sells drugs on a school bus where students in elementary and middle schools are being transported.
Those selling narcotics like methamphetamine, heroin, crack cocaine, cocaine, LSD or at least 5 kilograms of marijuana can be confronted with as much as 25 years in prison and a fine of $500,000.
If it was a repeat sale, the prison sentence can be for up to 40 years and a minimum of three years that must be served. Those who are in possession of these drugs – except for marijuana – can be imprisoned for up to 20 years and fined $250,000. Simply selling marijuana in these areas can spark a 15-year jail sentence and a fine of up to $100,000. Possessing a dangerous weapon at the time increases the penalties.
How do aggravating factors impact a drug case?
There are 10 aggravating factors related to drug charges. The penalties will be exponentially worse depending on how many of the aggravating factors are involved.
Courts can find aggravating factors:
- If the person had been convicted of a violent crime in the previous decade.
- If the violation came about on behalf of a gang.
- If there were separate acts of selling or possessing controlled substances in at least three counties
- If the controlled substances were taken across state or international borders and into Minnesota.
- If the offense involved a minimum of three transactions where the substances were sold or possessed with the intent to sell or transfer.
It is also an aggravating factor if: the person is found to be in a top position in a drug distribution organization; if the person used their position to commit the offense; if it involved selling the substances to those under 18 or who were categorized as vulnerable adults; if they violated the school zone law; or if they had equipment, drug paraphernalia, money or other items that showed their involvement with controlled substances surpassed the minimum threshold to be charged.
Assessing the avenues of defense
Drug crimes and the accompanying penalties can vary depending on the situation. Those who were in a drug free zone might not be fully aware of what they may face if they are convicted. As these laws and the penalties show, it is imperative to lodge a strong defense to combat these allegations. The person might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time; there could have been issues with the investigation itself and evidence might be called into question; or a plea bargain might be available to limit the jail time and fines. No matter the allegations, it is essential to have professional help to assess the case and decide on a path forward.