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Drug charges in Ozaukee or Washington County are dependent on the drug involved, its quantity and whether the criminal conduct is that of a user and simple possession or a dealer where you are believed to be selling drugs. Misdemeanor drug possession could have a maximum penalty of up to 3.5 years in prison, $10,000 in fines or both. Felony-level maximum penalties could include 40 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.

Glenn Gaskill

OWI & Criminal Defense Attorney

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Drug Charges in Ozaukee & Washington Counties

The decision regarding what type of drug charge issued against you is based on many different factors. Some of the more significant considerations include the drug involved, its quantity, the county where you were charged and whether the criminal conduct is that of a user and simple possession or a dealer where you are believed to be selling drugs.  The range of charges that you can face go from high-level felonies, with maximum penalties of decades in prison, all the way down to a non-criminal forfeiture violation, without even having a criminal conviction on your record.

Possession of marijuana can be charged as a non-criminal forfeiture violation, a criminal misdemeanor, or, with a past conviction or evidence of distribution/intent to distribute, a felony charge. A conviction for a forfeiture or citation carries a fine and possible driver’s license suspension. With a criminal misdemeanor, there is potential for jail time, a fine or probation. Any felony possession of marijuana charge has penalties that include prison time and significantly higher fines or both. For example, a second and subsequent possession of marijuana charge is a class I felony with a maximum sentence of 3.5 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.

A possession of cocaine charge without a prior drug conviction is a misdemeanor offense that has a maximum of 12 months in jail and a $5000 fine. If instead, you have a prior drug conviction you may be charged with a second and subsequent cocaine possession which is a class I felony that has a maximum 3.5-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

There are first-time drug possession charges, for heroin, narcotics or methamphetamine, that typically result in felony charges with possible prison sentences, financial penalties and potentially the suspension of your driver’s license for up to 5 years.

Type of Drug Matters

Often the type of drug involved has a substantial influence on how your case is treated. In Wisconsin possession of THC is still illegal, however charges involving THC are often handled less intensely when compared to other drugs such as methamphetamine or heroin.

Typically prosecuting attorneys will have an internal hierarchy regarding different drugs and how dangerous they are considered to be. THC is often regarded as the least serious illegal drug. Party drugs like LSD, shrooms, ecstasy and MDMA often follow THC in the pecking order. Lastly, the most serious of the internal hierarchy often include heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and crack cocaine as well as opiate-derived medications like oxycodone and OxyContin.

Due to the heroin and opioid epidemic our communities are facing, prosecutors frequently deal with these types of possession most severely; attempting to ensure a felony conviction when these drugs are involved. If you are charged with a felony offense there is always the possibility of being sentenced to prison and you will never be able to legally possess a firearm again.

While still impacted by the type of drug, if you are charged with dealing drugs you can expect to be treated harshly even if the drug is THC. Independent of the drug type delivering or selling drugs are felony charges that upon conviction could send you to prison for multiple years. Our Ozaukee and Washington County drug attorneys have handled all manner and levels of drug cases and will work with you to best defend against your case.

County Matters

In Wisconsin, each individual county has its own police force, district attorney, and other governmental agencies that create and implement the laws at the county level. This individuality can be seen in the way cases are handled from one county to another. It is possible for the same, or similar, circumstances to be treated differently depending on the county handling your case resulting in significantly different offers and potentially even charges.

Similar to the internal hierarchy of drug types for prosecutors, different counties often have a decided upon county-specific hierarchy of cases regarding how they are handled; with some charges given leniency and others being treated harshly. There are no written rules to help an attorney navigate this hierarchy if they do not have the experience with the county. Even neighboring counties will treat similar cases differently.

The right attorney will know when the State’s offer to resolve your case is good or bad. What is terrible in one county, may be as good as it gets in a neighboring county. Our Ozaukee and Washington county attorneys have the specific knowledge necessary to help guide you through your case and the nuances of the justice system that change from one county to the next.

Buying & Selling Matters

Dealing or using is another major factor in determining the level of charge you will face and the treatment your case will receive from the State and the judge. Using drugs is often considered to facilitate the drug trade; without demand, there would be no need to supply. However, prosecutors and judges understand that addiction is a disease and cannot simply be overcome by the strength of your will. They consider individuals who sell drugs to be preying on people suffering from addiction and will treat those charges with significantly less leniency.

Possession is the least serious drug offense. If the drugs found in your possession are considered to be for personal use you will be charged with simple possession of the drug involved. Depending on the drug involved you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a low-level felony.

The next level above simple possession is possession with intent to distribute. There are many factors police consider in determining if the drugs found are simple possession or are intended to be distributed. Often the amount of drugs, the paraphernalia found present with the drugs (a scale or bags), how the drugs are packaged (multiple packages) and the amount of money recovered are significant factors in determining if there was an intent to distribute.

The highest level of drug possession offense is the delivery of drugs. Independent of the quantity or prior history, selling or delivering drugs is a felony offense for which you can be sentenced to time in prison. The length of prison sentence and level of felony depend on the drugs involved and the amount you are accused of selling.

If you are caught selling drugs, most often it is based on the use of a confidential informant, or CI, by the police. When using a CI to gather evidence of drug dealing, it is common for a long delay to take place following the sale or delivery of drugs before charges are filed. Often during that time frame, multiple ‘controlled buys’ are executed to bolster the State's case against you.

Amount Matters

The larger the quantity of drugs found in your possession the higher the level of felony, the less understanding the prosecutor and the longer the maximum prison sentence will be.  When determining charges, police and prosecutors often consider the amount of drugs found to be indicative of whether the drug involved was for personal use or for distributing.  As all charges for selling drugs are felonies, the amount found in your possession can unilaterally determine if you are facing a misdemeanor with a few months in jail or a felony with multiple years in prison.

Working as a CI

If you were caught in possession of drugs, the police may give you the opportunity to work as a confidential informant (CI). Working as a confidential informant means that you will be asked to purchase drugs from other people and testify against them.

The impact working as a CI can have on your pending drug case is significant, however, it is not without substantial risk. Any decision to work as a CI should be made after careful consideration and only after speaking with an attorney about your case to determine your options. Successful work as a CI can result in your charge being amended down or the case being dropped entirely. If, however, you are unsuccessful in your work as a CI you may not receive any benefit for your work but still incur the risks.

The police will not provide guarantees or promises as to your case for your work as a CI. Nor will you be given an explicit trade-off evaluation. The police will not offer you a deal, instead they will give you a number you need to reach to gain a good word towards your case with the prosecutor.

While the unknown benefit toward your case may be off-putting, an officer who does not uphold his end of the bargain regarding your case will gain a reputation as someone who is untrustworthy. That sort of reputation can make work investigating drug crimes significantly more difficult for their career. However, as the agreement will not specify the degree of impact your work will have on your case, you may not be satisfied with the consideration you receive as it may not be consistent with your expectations.

Deciding to work as a confidential informant has many variables you should consider. Our knowledgeable and experienced team of Ozaukee and Washington County drug attorneys can help you make an informed decision whether working as a CI is in your best interest for your case.

Contact Wisconsin's drug lawyers now for a free consultation to learn how we can get your charges reduced or dropped.

How long does a drug case stay on my record?

A conviction for a drug-related offense will stay on your record for the rest of your life. In addition to the jail time, fines and driver’s license suspension, you may also lose your ability to get a concealed carry license, employment or financial aid for school.  Certain drug offenses can be expunged depending on the level of charge, however, having a charge expunged does not remove the conviction it merely seals the record from public view. Even an expunged drug conviction may need to be reported on a job application or other professional licensing applications.

How to beat a possession charge

There are four main areas where a drug case can be challenged:

Police Contact

Any police contact requires a specific legal standard that the police must reach in order to make contact with you. Frequently, in a drug case, police contact happens in a vehicle following a traffic stop, however, you can be stopped simply walking down the street. Anytime the police stop you they must have a legitimate legal reason to do so. Without a lawful reason, any evidence found following the police stopping you can be deemed inadmissible and thrown out. If drugs are found in your vehicle, but the police had no legal reason to pull you over anything found in your vehicle can be suppressed.

Search

Following police making contact with you, there is another, higher, legal standard the police must meet to be allowed to search you or your vehicle. A search of your person, backpack, vehicle or purse without having met the appropriate legal standard is illegal and anything found can be suppressed.

Statement

Making statements to police is rarely in your best interest and will often negatively impact an attorney's ability to challenge your case. Police will often ask seemingly innocuous questions to try and get you talking so that they can use that information to secure a conviction against you later.

Any experienced attorney will advise you not to talk to the police, however, even if you have already spoken to the police there may be challenges an appropriately skilled lawyer can bring on your behalf. If police do not follow the law or attempt to sidestep their requirements for questioning you, it is possible to get your statements thrown out.

Entrapment

Often when people are charged with drug offenses following a ‘control buy’, it feels like the police set you up. The definition of entrapment is when you are forced or significantly pushed by the police to commit a crime that you would not have otherwise committed. Additionally, entrapment requires the purpose of the police action to be starting a criminal prosecution against someone.

To successfully put on an entrapment defense is a very difficult and rarely successful task. Simply because someone else initiated the contact that led to the sale of drugs, does not constitute entrapment. Instead, you would need to be able to show something similar to harassment by the other person and manipulation that led to your decision to sell them drugs. For an entrapment defense, it comes down to who created the intent to commit the crime.

An entrapment defense is an affirmative defense meaning that you are not contesting that your actions meet the elements of the crime, but instead are arguing that there were other factors that caused you to commit the crime. Raising an affirmative defense is a risky decision that should not be made lightly because you have to admit to committing the crime and the defense can only be raised at trial.

Convincing a jury of an entrapment defense is incredibly difficult because a jury would have to believe that without the pressure from the police you would not have committed the crime. Hiring the right attorney is necessary to analyze your case so that you may determine if an entrapment defense is a viable option.

Reach out to our award-winning Ozaukee and Washington drug attorneys to discuss your case so that we may work together to figure out the best way to fight against your charges.

 

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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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