Drug charges and penalties vary depending on how many drugs were involved, what drugs were involved, and the intention of the person caught with the drugs.
A person who is caught with a small amount of marijuana, for example, will not be charged with crimes as serious as a person who is caught moving large amounts of cocaine across state borders. Sometimes, however, these lines are blurred – and if you are charged with trafficking in Minnesota when you were merely possessing drugs, you may face unjust consequences.
What Are the Penalties for Minnesota Drug Possession?
If you are charged with drug possession, whether it is the result of an addiction or because you were holding drugs for a friend, you still won’t get let off easy in Minnesota. Even the least severe drug charges in Minnesota could result in penalties including up to five years behind bars and up to a $10,000 fine.
This is a possession of a controlled substance charge in the fifth degree, and it applies to the following amounts of drugs:
- Less than 10 doses of a hallucinogen
- Less than three grams of heroin
- Less than 10 grams of other narcotic drugs
- Less than 42.5 grams of marijuana
If you are found with any amount larger than what is specified above, you may not have to worry about a possession charge, but rather one for trafficking.
Why? Because Minnesota lawmakers have deemed amounts higher than those listed above to be too much for mere personal use.
What Constitutes as Drug Trafficking in Minnesota?
While many states have separate charges for selling drugs and trafficking (moving and distributing drugs in high quantities), Minnesota only has two types of drug charges: possession and sale. If there is any evidence that you had intention to sell the drugs that you were caught with, the potential penalties you face will spike dramatically.
Minnesota recently changed its policies on drug sale and trafficking to target people who are running elaborate operations. The idea was to reduce the penalties on people who are merely possessing drugs due to an addiction. However, if you are caught with a larger amount of drugs that you intended for personal use, you can still be roped into the same group and face extreme penalties.
What do those penalties look like compared to penalties for possession?
To start, the least severe charges for trafficking drugs in Minnesota (besides small amounts of marijuana) are a third degree controlled substance charge. This means that trafficking less than three grams of heroin or less than 10 grams of other narcotic drugs could land you up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. That’s quite a large jump from possession charges.
How to Defend against Minnesota Drug Trafficking Charges
If you are charged with drug trafficking, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to fight back with the strongest defense possible. One viable strategy may be to focus on reducing your charges to possession charges.
How does this work? In order to prove that you are guilty of drug trafficking, the prosecution will have to provide evidence that you had intentions to sell the drugs involved. If this cannot be proven, you will not be found guilty of trafficking.
Obviously, casting doubt on your intent is only one possible strategy – there are many others that can help to get your charged reduced, dropped, or dismissed. Ultimately, the best way to learn which strategies are most likely to work in your case is to reach out to a Minnesota criminal defense lawyer, but even knowing some possible options is helpful.
If you are trying to prove that you possessed controlled substances without any intent to sell them, you may want to include an intent to seek rehabilitation for an addiction. Minnesota’s harsh trafficking laws are meant to be separate from softer possession penalties meant to help, rather than punish, victims of addiction.
Illegal search and seizure by law enforcement
If police illegally searched your person or property without your consent and without a warrant, the evidence that they found may be scrapped from the record. Know your rights when interacting with police officers.
Maybe you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe someone brought your name up when they were just trying to save themselves after an arrest. Either way, false accusations do happen. If you were misidentified, it can be helpful to show that another person was in possession of the drugs you were allegedly caught with.
Evidence was planted, duress
Law enforcement may use a variety of tactics to frame you for drug trafficking or related charges. There are recorded cases in which police planted drugs while making an arrest or coerced a defendant into admitting to a crime that they did not commit. If this occurred in your case, you will have to provide solid evidence that you were being framed.
Remember, there’s a huge difference between trafficking and possession charges. The ideal situation, obviously, is to beat your charges entirely and get back to your regular life. Even fighting to have the charges reduced to possession, however, is a major achievement.
About the Author:
A former prosecutor and lifelong Minnesotan, Christian Peterson has handled hundreds of criminal cases from both sides of the aisle since he began practicing law in 2006, as well as a wide variety of family law matters. This background allows him to look at situations from all angles and anticipate which arguments the other side may use, increasing his clients’ chances of success. His work has been recognized by the American Society of Legal Advocates, the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys, and National Trial Lawyers, and he has a perfect 10/10 rating from Avvo.