What is an “Aggravated” Drug Crime in Illinois?

Naperville criminal defense attorney, criminal defense attorney, aggravated drug crime, Illinois drug crimes, drug chargesThere are a number of factors that may elevate a drug crimes charge in Illinois. Many offenses are considered “aggravated”—and thus subject to harsher sentences—if one or more special conditions are present. For example, it is against the law to “participate in the manufacturing” of methamphetamine. Yet, a person can be charged with “aggravated” participation if he or she knowingly does so in a multi-unit dwelling or in the presence of a child.

Therefore, what is the exact difference between simple and aggravated participation? Simple participation involving between 400 and 900 grams of methamphetamine carries a prison term of 12 and 50 years. However, for aggravated participation, the mandatory sentence is between 15 and 60 years. In other words, aggravated participation could add several years to an already lengthy prison sentence.

Prosecutors Fail to Prove Defendant Produced Meth Near an Active Church

It is therefore important for Illinois prosecutors to actually prove the “aggravating” conditions exist beyond a reasonable doubt. Remember, the burden is always on the prosecution, and never the defendant, to prove all of the elements of a charged offense. Judges should never allow prosecutors and police to take shortcuts with a defendant's constitutional rights.

Consider a recent case in point. A police officer in the city of Vandalia, Illinois, was serving a warrant when he “smelled a strong chemical odor.” The officer suspected someone was manufacturing methamphetamine in the area. The officer searched a nearby house and discovered “methamphetamine manufacturing materials.” He arrested the occupant of the house, who was charged with a number of crimes, including “aggravated participation” in methamphetamine manufacturing.

At the defendant's trial, the officer testified that the house where he arrested the defendant was 111 feet from a building called the “St. James Lutheran Church.” This was critical because one of the conditions that elevates simple participation to aggravated participation is that the alleged manufacturing occurred “within 1,000 feet of a place of worship or parsonage.” Based largely on the officer's testimony, the jury found the defendant guilty of aggravated participation.

But, a divided panel of the Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court said the officer's testimony was insufficient to prove the defendant manufactured methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a church or place of worship. The court's reasoning was simple: There was “no direct testimony” establishing the building in question was in fact “functioning primarily as a place of worship” on the date of the defendant's arrest. Nor could the jury infer such facts from the evidence presented at trial, i.e. the fact it was referred to as a “church.”

Have You Been Charged With a Drug Crime in Illinois?

The defendant in the case above did not get off entirely. The Fifth District said he was still guilty of simple participation. Still, he will likely receive a reduced sentence due to the prosecution's failure to prove a crucial element of their case.

If you are charged with any kind of crime, you need an experienced Naperville criminal defense attorney at your side to make sure the courts respect your rights. Call Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC today if you need immediate legal assistance.