FAQ: Drug Charges

By West Michigan Defense Team
Man in handcuffs detained for transportation of drugs

We put together this article to shed light on some of the most pressing and commonly asked questions regarding Michigan drug charges.  

Whether it's inquiries about the differences between possession and manufacturing, the potential defenses available, or the process of drug charge expungement, we're here to provide clear, comprehensible answers.  

Our goal is to equip you with the necessary knowledge to better understand the complexities of the law, empowering you to make informed decisions about your case. If your question isn't addressed here, or if you're facing charges, feel free to reach out and set up a free consultation with our firm. We’re proud to work with clients across Grand Rapids, Michigan, as well as Kalamazoo, Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, and Western Michigan.  

Q: What is the difference between possession and manufacturing charges? 

A: Possession charges in Michigan typically refer to someone having controlled substances for personal use, without the intent to distribute or produce. Manufacturing charges, on the other hand, involve the production, creation, or preparation of illegal drugs.  

The legal consequences for manufacturing are generally more severe than for possession due to the implication of distribution or intent to distribute. 

Q: What constitutes a drug trafficking charge?

A: Under Michigan law, drug trafficking involves the selling, transporting, or importing of controlled substances across state lines or within the state. It's a broad category that encompasses actions from large-scale drug distribution networks to smaller, individual sales. The law differentiates trafficking from possession by the quantity of the drug, the presence of packaging materials, scales, or other distribution-related paraphernalia, and any evidence of transactions, such as large sums of money or detailed records.  

The consequences of a drug trafficking charge can be severe, ranging from years to life in prison, substantial fines, and the permanent stigma of a felony conviction on one's record, affecting future employment, housing, and educational opportunities.  

It's important to note that Michigan's proximity to Canada and major interstate systems can also bring federal charges into play for trafficking offenses, leading to even more serious penalties. 

Q: What are the penalties for fentanyl possession?

A: Fentanyl possession in Michigan is considered a serious offense due to the drug's potent and potentially lethal nature.  

The penalties for fentanyl possession can be particularly harsh, reflecting the state's commitment to combating the opioid crisis. For mere possession, without intent to distribute, individuals may face up to four years in prison and/or fines of up to $25,000.  

These penalties can escalate significantly with factors such as the amount possessed, prior convictions, or evidence of intent to distribute. It's integral for anyone facing fentanyl possession charges to seek experienced legal counsel, as strategies for defense can vary greatly depending on the specific circumstances of the case. 

Q: Can I face drug charges if drugs were found in a car I was driving but don't own?

A: Yes, you can be charged if drugs are found in a vehicle you are driving, regardless of ownership. In Michigan, the legal concept of "constructive possession" applies, meaning if you had access to and control over the area where the drugs were discovered, you can be charged.  

For instance, imagine you borrowed a friend’s car to run errands. During a routine traffic stop, law enforcement finds a bag of illegal drugs tucked underneath the passenger seat. Even though the car does not belong to you and you were unaware of the drugs' presence, you could still face drug possession charges under Michigan’s constructive possession law.  

This concept applies because you were in control of the car and, theoretically, had access to its entire contents, illustrating how someone can be charged without direct possession of controlled substances. 

Q: What are some potential defenses against a drug charge?

A: Defense strategies can vary greatly depending on the specifics of your case. Common defense strategies against drug charges include: 

  • Unlawful Search and Seizure: This defense is grounded in the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unwarranted searches and seizures by law enforcement. If evidence was obtained without a proper search warrant, or beyond the scope of what the warrant allowed, it can be challenged and potentially excluded from the case. For example, if the police conducted a search of your garage without a warrant or consent and discovered a drug manufacturing setup, that evidence might be deemed inadmissible. 

  • Lack of Possession: Arguing that you did not actually possess the drugs in question can be a viable defense. This strategy is particularly relevant in cases of constructive possession, where the drugs were found in a shared or public space. If, for instance, drugs were found in the common area of an apartment you share with roommates, you might argue that you had no control or ownership of the drugs. 

  • Crime Lab Analysis: Just because a substance looks and tests preliminarily positive for being an illegal drug at the time of arrest doesn't automatically confirm its illegal nature. It must be analyzed by a crime lab to confirm it is indeed a controlled substance. There have been cases where substances thought to be illicit drugs turned out to be legal substances. If the crime lab analysis does not definitively confirm the substance's illegality, the charges may be dropped. 

  • Medical Marijuana Defense: In states where medical marijuana is legal, having a valid medical marijuana card can offer a defense against possession charges, provided that you are within the legal limits for possession and cultivation. For instance, if you are arrested for growing cannabis plants but can demonstrate that you are a registered medical marijuana patient growing within your legal right, this can serve as a defense. 

  • Entrapment: This defense applies when an individual is induced by law enforcement to commit a crime they otherwise would not have committed. An example would be if an undercover officer not only provided the illegal drugs but also pressured or coerced you into selling them, thereby manufacturing a crime.  

Any defense strategy requires an in-depth understanding of both the facts of the case and applicable law. Working with a knowledgeable defense attorney can help you identify and effectively argue the best defense strategy that points to your ideal outcome.  

Q: Is it possible to have drug charges expunged from my record in Michigan?

A: Under certain circumstances, it is possible to have a drug charge expunged or set aside from your criminal record in Michigan, thanks to recent changes in the law. 

This depends on several factors, including the nature of the offense, your criminal history, and the amount of time that has passed since the conviction.  

For example, as per the changes implemented in Michigan law, certain criminal offenses, including some drug charges, may be automatically expunged from an individual's record. This process, known as "Clean Slate" legislation, aims to provide a fresh start to individuals who have served their time and reformed their behavior.  

Under this legislation, eligible misdemeanors will be set aside seven years after sentence completion, and eligible felonies will be expunged 10 years after the individual has completed their sentence or been discharged from parole, whichever comes latest.  

However, offenses related to assault, crimes that carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and sexual offenses are not eligible for automatic expungement. 

To qualify for expungement under the "Clean Slate" initiative, individuals must not have more than three felony offenses and any number of misdemeanors, with no more than two assaultive crime convictions in total. It's important to note that certain drug offenses, particularly those involving the manufacture or distribution of controlled substances, may fall outside the scope of automatic expungement but could still be considered for expungement. 

An attorney can help you understand if you're eligible for expungement. They can provide guidance, manage the expungement application process, and advocate on your behalf—potentially leading to a significant positive change in your life by clearing your record of past drug charges. 

Q: How does Michigan law treat marijuana-related offenses? 

A: Michigan has legalized the use of recreational and medical marijuana within certain limits. However, it is still illegal to manufacture (grow) large quantities without proper licensing, and federal law still prohibits marijuana production and possession.  

For recreational users, Michigan law permits individuals who are 21 years of age or older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana on their person and up to 10 ounces at home. Also, they're allowed to grow up to 12 marijuana plants at their residence for personal use, if they are not visible from public spaces without binoculars, aircraft, or other optical aids.  

In contrast, medical marijuana patients in Michigan, with the appropriate medical marijuana card, are permitted to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana or its equivalents in other forms like edibles or concentrates. They may also cultivate up to 12 plants for personal medicinal use, provided the cultivation area is locked and secured. 

Violations of these regulations, such as possession of amounts exceeding the legal limits or unauthorized manufacturing, can result in significant legal penalties.  

For instance, possession of more than the permitted amount but less than five times the legal limit could lead to misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to one year in jail and fines up to $2,000. Distribution or manufacturing without authorization is considered a more serious offense and can lead to felony charges, with penalties significantly harsher, including longer jail sentences and higher fines, depending on the quantities involved and whether the distribution was to minors. 

Thus, while Michigan has progressive laws regarding the use and cultivation of marijuana, compliance with these laws is critical to avoid serious consequences. 

Q: What should I do if I'm facing drug charges in Michigan?

A: If you're facing drug charges in Michigan, it's critical to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can review your case, advise you on your legal options, and represent you throughout the legal process, potentially mitigating the consequences you face. 

It's also a good idea to educate yourself on the charges you're facing and understand the potential penalties if convicted. If you're on this webpage, you're already taking the initiative to inform yourself, which is an essential first step.  

Additionally, it's crucial to avoid discussing your case with anyone without your attorney present. Anything you say can potentially be used against you in court, so it's best to let your legal representation handle all communication and negotiations on your behalf. 

Q: What should I look for in a defense lawyer?

A: When looking for a defense lawyer, there are several important factors to consider: 

  • Experience and Compassion: Look for a lawyer who has experience specifically in handling drug-related cases. They should fully understand the laws surrounding drug offenses and potential defense strategies. Additionally, it's essential to find a lawyer who is compassionate and understands the sensitive nature of drug charges. 

  • Track Record: A good defense lawyer will have a track record of successful outcomes for their clients. This can be an indication of their competence and ability to effectively advocate for you. 

  • Communication skills: It's crucial to have a lawyer who can effectively communicate with you about your case, keeping you informed and answering any questions or concerns you may have. 

  • Availability: You want a defense lawyer who is accessible to you when needed. Look for someone who is responsive and available to discuss your case. 

  • Trustworthiness: You want to work with a lawyer you can trust, who will prioritize your best interests and provide honest and transparent advice throughout the legal process. 

Overall, finding the right defense lawyer for your drug charges case is crucial. Take the time to research and meet with potential lawyers before deciding. 

Contact the West Michigan Defense Team for Help

Remember, a charge is not a conviction—there are many steps and strategies available to defend your rights. 

Our team at the West Michigan Defense Team is dedicated to offering comprehensive legal support to those accused of drug-related offenses. By leveraging our expertise and understanding of Michigan law, we aim to secure the best possible outcome for our clients, focusing on rehabilitation and a return to the community wherever possible. 

If you're facing drug charges and feeling overwhelmed, remember that help is available. The right legal team can make all the difference in your case and future. Don't hesitate to reach out to the West Michigan Defense Team for a free consultation—we're here to defend your rights and guide you through this challenging time.