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Drug Lawyer for Possession & Dealing Water Street office (Milwaukee's lower east side)

Drug penalties in Milwaukee are typically based on the specific drug, its schedule, the amount, and other factors. Misdemeanor drug possession could have a maximum penalty of up to 3.5 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both, while felony-level maximum penalties could reach 40 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Tom Grieve

OWI & Criminal Defense Attorney

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Possession of THC can be charged as a civil forfeiture violation, also called a ticket. If you are charged with a THC ticket, you face fines and potential driver’s license suspension. Sometimes, possession of THC will be charged as a misdemeanor which carries potential jail time as well as fines and license suspensions. If you have a prior conviction for possession of THC, you can be charged with a second or subsequent charge which is a class I felony. It carries a maximum sentence of 3.5 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. 

Possession of cocaine as a first offense is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of up to 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine. A second or subsequent possession of cocaine is a class I felony carrying up to 3 and a half years in prison and a $10,000 fine or both.

Possession of other drugs such as meth, heroin, and narcotics are often charged as felony offenses. They carry potential prison time, fines, and potential suspension of your driver’s license for up to 5 years. 

Depending on the type of drug, charges can be very different.

 

Drug charges in Milwaukee and Milwaukee County

Drug cases are one of the biggest types of cases our criminal defense attorneys see throughout Milwaukee and the surrounding areas. Because of the variation in types of drugs, amounts of the drug, and what is being done with it, outcomes in drug cases can widely vary. It is important to have an attorney who knows the ropes when it comes to not only drugs but where the drug charges are occurring and which court is handling your case.

The United States wrote the Uniform Controlled Substances Act in order to control all drugs that came into the country and classify them into five different categories known as schedules. There are five schedules of controlled substances and each level can come with its own set of penalties. For example, Schedule I drugs that serve no medical purpose and are highly addictive such as heroin come with a felony for even your first time possessing it. Marijuana on the other hand is decriminalized in some areas and can be a misdemeanor offense statewide. 

There are also drugs that are taken much more seriously when gunning for convictions. For example, heroin and methamphetamine are big problems especially in northern Wisconsin and therefore prosecutors are more aggressive in gaining convictions for those types of cases. 

Results differ depending on the county

The outcome of the case might also vary greatly on where you are being charged. Milwaukee County, for example, takes a very aggressive approach on gun cases and other counties take a very aggressive approach to meth charges. This is not to say that Milwaukee is not aggressive when it comes to drug charges, it is just that gun charges are a bigger problem in the eyes of John Chisolm and there are various local rules put in place for gun cases. Gun cases sometimes go hand in hand with drug cases, so they may be killing two birds with one stone. 

Because different charges are approached differently depending on the county you are in, a criminal conviction for drugs may look very different in Milwaukee and, say, Racine or Kenosha County. The results can also vary greatly from judge to judge and prosecutor to prosecutor. You will need an attorney who knows how judges feel about different types of cases and how prosecutors may approach them. As stated above, there may be local rules, but a prosecutor may also have their own policies about how they handle marijuana cases. One prosecutor may feel that since marijuana will very likely become legal in the near future that they will not prosecute it as harshly, which another may want to make sure the letter of the law is followed, and just because it is legal elsewhere does not mean that it is legal here. Judges have the same feelings on various cases, and you need an attorney who is very familiar with these quirks so that they can best advise how you proceed with your case. It may be advantageous to substitute on your judge with the hopes of a better judge and prosecutor on your drug case. We see cases all the time where the client had previously been advised without the correct information and now they may be stuck with a judge who thinks all methamphetamine users should be in jail, and that is what the client is being charged with. 

There are thousands of attorneys who practice law all over the state, but you need someone who has experience in somewhere like Milwaukee County who knows not only judges and prosecutors but outcomes of cases and possibly upcoming judicial rotations that will affect how your case will move forward or how fast it will move forward. Some judges try to hurry cases through their branch while others will not be as concerned.

Charges also differ for possession, buying, and selling drugs

While our drug criminal defense attorneys see possession most frequently, make no mistake that you can and will be charged for dealing, manufacturing, or growing drugs. On the lowest level, possession of a drug with the intent to deliver it is a Class I felony. The penalties can only increase from there. 

Possession with intent

The amount of a controlled substance you are in possession of can have a bearing on whether your criminal charges involve possession for personal use or possession with the intent to deliver or deal that drug. For example, it is pretty widely accepted that anything less than an ounce of marijuana is personal use, but going above that could question your intent with it. Additionally, if police find things such as cash, scales, or baggies that may support a drug dealing business, they will likely try to charge you with felony possession with intent rather than misdemeanor possession. From a defense perspective, things like cash or scales can have very innocent explanations, but when all together police might come to a different conclusion. You need a strong criminal defense attorney who is able to help distinguish between these things and look at other factors that may call into question the veracity of your criminal charges. 

Delivery and selling of controlled substances

While it is bad to be caught with a lot of drugs that police could assume are for dealing, it can be even worse to be caught actually dealing those drugs. Police create and monitor drug dealings all the time, and then those that get caught are charged with what is called Manufacturing or Delivering a controlled substance. As you get into these more serious criminal charges, the amount that you have is less important, because you could be selling a very small amount to an individual person. For example, if you are caught dealing heroin, the fact that you had less than a gram of it is minuscule to a judge when comparing it to the fact that you are helping heroin move through the streets of Milwaukee.

Police, prosecutors, and judges not only want to catch those who are using the drugs and get them help, but they want to punish those who are supplying those drugs to people. If the police believe you are the one doing this, they will punish you accordingly, and you are likely looking at jail time, if not prison. 

However, as police become overzealous in trying to get drugs off the streets, mistakes can get made and cases can still be reduced or dismissed. This is why it is so important to have a strong criminal defense attorney by your side.

A CI, or confidential informant, is someone used by police to buy and sell drugs in hopes of finding larger sources of drugs. If you got caught with two ounces of marijuana, police are going to want to also get the person who sold it to you. They may ask you if you want to work for them and help them catch the bigger fish in a drug operation and get to the source. In exchange, the police may be willing to drop charges against you or help you get them reduced. 

The question is whether you should do that, and there are a lot of things to consider in making this decision. The answer to whether you should CI is that it depends, and it mostly depends on you and what you can and cannot do. Most police who offer to let someone CI do not have time for games and if you mess with them, all they have to do is refer your drug charges to the district attorney. They are usually very busy and handling multiple undercover operations at a time. If you will not be able to do what they ask or you will not listen to instruction, then it could backfire and hurt your inevitable criminal charges at that point. 

These officers want someone who is not going to ask a lot of questions, but rather put their head down, make a bunch of buys, and get them what they need in a timely manner. Just because they do not have time for your questions does not mean that they will forget about you and your charges. There are systems in place to make sure that they will not just let you go free without getting something out of it first. Again, if you screw them, they just have to call the prosecutor and begin the work on the charges against you.

Many times we have people ask us what they will get out of it if they help the police. The short answer is that there is no guarantee that you will get anything. Prosecutors and police want to see what you can do and what information you can provide before they are willing to offer you anything. They will not promise you anything in advance if you do x, y, and z. Most proposals will involve the officer asking you to make a specific number of buys and it may need to be a specific type of drug. Once you have done that, and maybe even once charges have been filed against those people, only then will they consider getting you a deal. Even after all that, they could still file pretty serious charges against you. You can hope that what you put in is what you get out, but that discretion is left to the officers and prosecutor.

These are not decisions to make lightly or without an attorney by your side, and not just any attorney. You need someone who deals with these types of cases regularly and all over Milwaukee so that you have all the information you need before making a very important decision. 

Drug Charges are not just a ticket

Even if you are “just” cited with forfeiture for possession of marijuana, that forfeiture can have lasting impacts on your life. You could lose financial aid for college or scholarships. The ticket could also lead to a loss of your license, which could lead to a loss of your job or other job prospects, along with other parts of your life. 

Additionally, a ticket will not just fall off of your record after a period of time. It will remain there forever. Plus, it will always be accessible to the public. Tickets cannot be expunged, regardless of your age. Also, it really may not just be a ticket. Police may give you a physical ticket, but that might be a way of summonsing you into court for your criminal charges for possession. While possession of marijuana and paraphernalia can be a ticket, it can also be a criminal misdemeanor. You will need an attorney to help you decipher how you are being charged.

Drugs with OWI cases

Not only can you get charged for possessing, selling, or making drugs, you can also receive charges for operating under the influence of drugs. They treated similarly to OWIs for alcohol. An OWI is defined as operating while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances or prescription medications, or restricted controlled substances or illegal drugs, or a combination of any of them. Not only can you get an OWI for alcohol, but you can get one just for operating with marijuana or cocaine in your system, you do not even need to be high. You can also get an OWI for driving with valid prescription medications in your system if those medications affect your ability to drive safely. These cases can be incredibly complicated, so you need an attorney who regularly handles both OWI and drug cases.

 



How long do drug charges stay on my record?

A conviction for any drug offense will stay on your record permanently. In some circumstances, drug offenses may be eligible for expunction from your record. However, an expunged conviction is not completely removed from your record. Rather, an expunged conviction is removed from public view. You may still be required to report a drug conviction on employment applications, applications for a lease or mortgage, or applications for professional licenses.

How to beat a drug case

In a majority of drug cases in Milwaukee, there are generally three phases of an investigation that the police do. First, there is an encounter with the police, whether that be a stop in your car or coming to your house to ask you questions. The second phase is the search for the drugs. That could be a search of your pockets, a search of your car after police smell marijuana, or a search of your home if they have a warrant to do so. The third is the questions they ask you and the statements you make. Once they obtain evidence of a crime, police will try to sit you down and ask you about it. 

All three of these phases are littered with ways for police to violate your constitutional rights, which could open the door to getting your charges reduced or dismissed. With the initial contact, the police must have a legal reason to pull you over or come to your house. Same with the search. Police can definitely just ask you if they can search your car or your house. You should never let this happen. Without an otherwise legal reason to search, that search could be illegal. Third, you have absolutely no reason to talk to the police, even if you did nothing wrong. You cannot be forced to speak to them, and you have the right to remain silent and/or have an attorney present with you during questioning. You need to make sure to exercise all of these rights that you have. 

When an experienced criminal defense attorney reviews a drug case, they not only look at those issues but also at the possibility of something like entrapment, personal use, coerced statements, etc.

 

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Tom Grieve, the firm's managing attorney and founder, is a former state prosecutor and is not the only ex-prosecutor at the firm. We love hiring attorneys from both sides of the wall to bring as many perspectives to fight your case as aggressively as possible. The State of Wisconsin likes it when you choose the run-of-the-mill fee to plea™ lawyers who don't even know how to analyze and defend cases instead of experienced criminal attorneys:

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