Many people associate stiff drug possession penalties with illegal narcotics such as heroin and cocaine. However, the law defines illegal possession of drugs differently. For the most part, Wisconsin law groups drugs into categories for purposes of illegal possession. Some types of prescription drugs can fall into buckets where illegal possession can merit serious jail time. Either way, you need to take drug possession charges seriously from the very first minute.
To be clear, authorities are usually after certain kinds of prescription drugs that may be highly addictive and could have a street value. They are usually not interested in whether people have some of their friend’s or family member’s blood pressure or arthritis medication. Not to say that you should ever borrow someone else’s medications, but they are more concerned with things like painkillers and addictive anti-anxiety medications.
Section 961 of the Wisconsin Code governs possession of prescription drugs. It makes it illegal to “acquire or obtain possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge.”
The Penalties Depend on the Type of Drug and Amount
Wisconsin has several schedules of illegal drugs. There are four categories of drugs where the state aims to prohibit unlawful possession. Of course, if you have a prescription, you are allowed to have these drugs in the amounts prescribed. You cannot share prescriptions of these controlled substances. Here are the four categories of prescription drugs that carry possession penalties:
- Amphetamines – these are primarily ADHD drugs such as Adderall, which is frequently abused. A first offense could carry a year jail sentence and a $5,000 fine. Subsequent offenses could have jail sentences of up to 3 ½ years.
- Schedule I and II opioids – these are prescription opioids that are highly addictive. Illegal possession could be a Class I felony that could draw a jail sentence of up to 3 ½ years.
- Non-narcotics – these are prescription medications that are also addictive, but they are not classified as narcotics. This includes things such as Xanax. This is a misdemeanor, and it can be penalized with up to 30 days in prison.
The Penalties Rise for Possession with Intent to Distribute
The above penalties are just for possession of the substances. The penalties rise substantially when someone is convicted of possession with intent to distribute. Again, these penalties are dependent on the type of prescription medication involved and the amount. Here are some of the penalties:
- Amphetamines – the penalties can range from up to 12.5 years in jail for possession of three grams or less to up to a 40-year sentence for 50 grams or more.
- Schedule I and II narcotics – there is a uniform sentence of up to 15 years in prison and a $50,000 fine regardless of the amount of the drug.
- Non-narcotics – there is a uniform sentence of up to six years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine regardless of the amount of the substance.
Other Effects of a Prescription Drug Conviction
These are the prison sentences and fines. There are other punishments and impacts of a prescription drug conviction that could touch other areas of your life. These could include:
- Loss of the ability to get hired for certain jobs (especially when your conviction is of a felony)
- A permanent criminal record that cannot be expunged
- An impact on your custodial rights if you have children
- Loss of firearm ownership rights if you have been convicted of a felony
The sentences that we detailed above are the maximum sentences for each crime. There is nothing that says that a defendant would receive the maximum sentence, but it gives the prosecutor some pretty broad leeway to seek high penalties in these drug possession cases. Without legal help, you could very well be facing a very long sentence. This is not to say that hiring a lawyer will lower possession sentences, but it does give you more legal options with which to work.
The Possible Outcome of Prescription Drug Charges
There are numerous possible outcomes to any drug possession charges. Usually, a defendant will:
- Fight the charges and either win or lose at trial
- Agree to a plea bargain in exchange for a lesser sentence
In Wisconsin, while these are the maximum sentences, there are options that could keep a defendant out of jail entirely, especially when the crime is possession without any intent to distribute (the picture is different with intent to distribute). There is some leniency available that could help focus on treatment over punishment. It may be better to quickly get into this part of the system than to go through a legal battle unless there are some serious flaws in your case. This could include police illegally searching and seizing the drugs in question.
Drug Court Could Be a Viable Option for Your Case
Short of fighting the charges and winning, the best hope for a defendant is to get into a drug court. These are specialized courts (and there is one in Eau Claire County) that focus on treatment over punishment. The hope is that the court could help the defendant get their life back together without bearing the effects of a prison sentence and more time in the criminal justice system. Not everyone qualifies for this court, and there are very rigorous conditions once a defendant gets into this system.
Appleton Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing drug charges, you need legal help immediately. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to hire an experienced attorney who can guide you through the criminal justice system and stand up for your legal rights. The justice system often loses sight of the individual facing the legal issue. The criminal defense attorneys at Hogan Eickhoff are here for you every step of the way as you aim for the best possible legal outcome. Call us today at (920) 450-9800 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation. Let us help you through the legal minefield.