There are five different levels of drug crimes in Minnesota ranging from first to fifth-degree with first degree being the most serious and fifth-degree being the least serious. What level the charge is depends on the controlled substance, the amount of the controlled substance, whether it was possessed or sold, and the criminal history of the person being charged. It is important to note that a sale crime can occur even without an actual sale because Minnesota law defines “sell” to include agreements to engage in a drug transaction and possession with the intent to engage in a drug transaction. See Minn. Stat. § 152.01 subd. 15a(2) & (3).
First-degree drug crimes are the most serious in Minnesota and can result in lengthy prison sentences if not handled properly. This is particularly true where the charge is an aggravated first-degree charge. First-degree is most commonly charged where someone has been caught selling or possessing cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, PCP, or other hallucinogens. It is important to note that the charge can still be first-degree even if some other drug was at issue depending upon the amount. A first-degree charge can be aggravated if the offense involves 100 or more grams or 500 or more dosage units and a firearm is used, or two or more aggravating are present. For the purposes of drug crimes, aggravating factors include previous convictions within 10 years for violent or similar offenses, the crime being committed for a gang, controlled substances were transported across state lines, or the defendant or an accomplice possessed items evidencing the offense involved substantially more than the minimum amount for the offense.
Depending on the subsection of Minnesota law that is charged, a first-degree charge can carry up to 40 years in prison and/or up to one million dollars in fines. There may also be a mandatory prison sentence in play. The mandatory minimums for first-degree drug crimes can be four years, 65 months, or 86 months. An experienced attorney may be able to avoid the mandatory minimum sentences and prevent a lengthy period in prison.
Second-degree drug crimes can be charged in many situations involving almost any controlled substance. An experienced attorney will be able to assist you with determining whether there is probable cause to support your charge. Much like first degree crimes, second degree is also extremely serious. Someone convicted of a second-degree drug crime faces up to 40 years and/or fines of up to $500,000. In addition, in some situations there is a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 3 years, but an attorney may be able to help avoid serving prison time.
As with second-degree drug crimes, third-degree drug crimes can involve nearly any controlled substance depending upon the amount possessed or sold. Third-degree is commonly charged when someone sells or possesses mixtures of narcotics, PCP, hallucinogens, or LSD. If you or a loved one have been charged with a third-degree drug crime, the good news is that there are no mandatory minimum sentences. The bad news is that you can still face up to 20 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines.
Fourth degree drug crime is usually charged when someone possesses or sells schedule I, II, or III controlled substances other than marijuana. It can also be charged when someone possesses PCP or hallucinogens and has at least 10 doses. The sale of marijuana can also result in a fourth-degree charge if the sale occurred in a school zone, park zone, public housing zone, or a drug treatment center. If convicted of a fourth-degree drug crime, you could face up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000. There are no mandatory minimum prison sentences for fourth-degree controlled substance crimes.
Fifth degree controlled substance crime is commonly the result of the sale or possession of marijuana. The good news is that a lawyer may be able to keep a fifth-degree charge from resulting in a conviction in many situations. Alternatively, it may be possible to have your fifth-degree charge handled as a gross misdemeanor. This is the only controlled substance crime in Minnesota that can be handled as a gross misdemeanor rather than a felony.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a controlled substance offense, it is important to have legal counsel assist with navigating the road ahead. There may be ways to have evidence suppressed, search warrants declared unconstitutional, and other defenses. This may result in reduced or dismissed. Contact the BK Law Group for your free consultation today.