When You Have Been Charged With Drug Crimes

Drug crimes constitute a complicated area of the law, and the state of Minnesota takes them very seriously. You can wind up spending years in jail if you are not careful, so it is important to know what to expect in such a case.

The Basics

There are some drugs that governments classify as ‘controlled substances,’ meaning that the drugs are governed by law. Some are banned outright, but many are legal only if you have a prescription for them. Manufacturing, possessing and trafficking banned drugs is a federal crime, but the federal laws only apply when the crime crosses state lines.

States have additional laws. According to state Revisor of Statute website, Minnesota outlaws: the possession of controlled drugs without a prescription, the manufacture of controlled drugs, the delivery of drug paraphernalia to minors, the sale of drugs, and the possession of drug paraphernalia.

What to Expect For Penalties

The penalties for drug crimes vary widely, depending on circumstances according to the government of Minnesota’s website. Minnesota has, since 1980, set up sentencing guidelines in an attempt to keep punishments for crimes rational. The commission on sentencing devised a grid, with the severity of the crime ranked by level along the vertical axis and the criminal history (called the criminal history score) for the accused listed on the horizontal axis. The suggested, or presumptive, sentence for the accused is the cell where the criminal history score intersects with the level of severity of the crime.

The first thing a court will determine is the level of severity, and that will depend on a couple of factors.

One factor is the type of drug involved. Minnesota puts controlled substances in 5 groups, called schedules. Schedule I includes highly addictive, dangerous drugs that have no medical use. The higher the schedule number, the more uses it has in medicine and the less dangerous it is. If you need to know which schedule a certain substance is in, go to the Office of the Revisor of Statutes to look it up.

The other factors for the severity of the crime is the amount of the drug involved and the actual offense, whether it was possession or trafficking. The seriousness of the offense can also depend on where it happened.

The next thing the court will want to determine when it finds a sentence is your criminal history score. This score is the sum of points given for the following: prior felony convictions, prior misdemeanor convictions, and prior juvenile adjudications. Each of these prior convictions are weighted according to several considerations, such as whether a person was convicted of more than one charge at one trial. The court will add another point to your score if you are accused of committing the offense while on probation, parole, supervised release, conditional release, or escaped after an executed sentence.

For example, if the court finds that you have a criminal history score of 0 and that you are accused of a controlled substance crime of a level 6 severity level. The judge can give you a stayed sentence of 21 months, with up to a year of confinement or other sanctions as a condition of probation. However, if you are accused of the same crime, but your criminal history score is 3, the judge can give you 34 to 46 months in jail.


There are some choices available to you. Most counties in Minnesota have diversional programs for first time offenders that may allow you to get rehabilitation programs. You can ask a lawyer about them.

As the website for the sentencing guidelines says, the judge does also have some discretion in sentencing. A judge can make what are known as departures. There are dispositional departures, when the judge decides to stay or execute a sentence against the recommendations of the grid, and there are durational departures, when a judge decides to make a sentence longer or shorter than the presumptive sentence found on the grid.

There are also many good defenses, many of them based on search and seizure law.

A good lawyer will help you get the best deal for your circumstances. If you need one, contact us, and we will put our expertise to work for you.

Sicoli Law
333 S 7th St #2350 MinneapolisMN55402 USA 
 • 612-871-0708
DISCLAIMER: The information in this article does not constitute legal advice. You should contact an attorney about your case and the content of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.