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What Are The Penalties For Possessing, Manufacturing, Distributing and Using Heroin In Michigan?

The opioid crisis has securing its deadly grip on the United States and one of the most dangerous opioids used and abused is heroin. It is also one of the most common drugs that leads to a death by overdose. It is highly addictive and often causes the addict to engage in other crime acts like larceny or robbery to secure funds for the next "fix". Its potent nature has made it a favorite target of legislatures and drug enforcement agencies across the country. If you are caught possessing, manufacturing or distributing heroin in Michigan, you are facing substantial fines and a lengthy prison sentence.

Heroin is classified as a Schedule 1 drug in Michigan. MCL 333.7212(b)(2). This means, according to the Public Health Code, that "[t]he substance has high potential for abuse and has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or lacks accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision." MCL 333.7211. Heroin cannot be obtained by legal prescription anywhere (although other derivatives of opioids may be).

MANUFACTURING, DELIVERING OR POSSESSING WITH INTENT TO DELIVER HEROIN (MCL 333.7401(2)(a)).

An individual is guilty of illegally manufacturing heroin if the prosecutor can prove ALL of the following beyond a reasonable doubt (Model Criminal Jury Instruction 12.1):

  • First, that the individual manufactured a controlled substance,
  • Second, that the substance manufactured was heroin. "Manufacture" means "the production, preparation, propagation, compounding, conversion, or processing of a controlled substance, directly or indirectly by extraction from substances of natural origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis, or by a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis. It includes the packaging or repackaging of the substance or labeling or relabeling of its container", except that it does not include "the preparation or compounding of a controlled substance by an individual for his or her own use." MCL 333.7106(3).
  • Third, that the individual knew that he or she was manufacturing heroin.
  • Fourth, that the individual knew that the heroin manufactured was in a quantity at the amount that the prosecutor is charging him or her with (the weight of the heroin correlates with the maximum penalty at law). People v Mass, 464 Mich 615; 628 NW2d 540 (2001).

An individual is guilty of illegally delivering heroin if the prosecutor can prove ALL of the following beyond a reasonable doubt (Model Criminal Jury Instruction 12.2):

  • First, that the individual delivered heroin. DELIVERY DOES NOT REQUIRE AN EXCHANGE FOR MONEY OR OTHER CONSIDERATION. "Delivery" means that the individual transferred or attempted to transfer the substance to another person, knowing that it was a controlled substance and intending to transfer it to that person. An attempt to transfer has two elements:
  1. The individual must have intended to deliver the substance to someone else.
  2. The individual must have taken some action toward delivering the substance, but failed to complete the delivery. It is not enough to prove that the defendant made preparations for delivering the substance. Things like planning the crime or arranging how it will be committed are just preparations; they do not qualify as an attempt. In order to qualify as an attempt, the action must go beyond mere preparation, to the point where the crime would have been completed if it had not been interrupted by outside circumstances. To qualify as an attempt, the act must clearly and directly be related to the crime the defendant is charged with attempting and not some other goal.
  • Second, that the defendant knew that he or she delivered a controlled substance.

An individual is guilty of illegally possessing heroin with intent to deliver if the prosecutor can prove ALL of the following beyond a reasonable doubt (Model Criminal Jury Instruction 12.3):

  • First, that the defendant possessed heroin. Possession does not necessarily mean ownership. It can mean that the person had actual physical control or dominion over the substance (e.g. in his or her hand or pocket). People v Germaine, 234 Mich 623, 627; 208 NW 705 (1926). It can also mean that he or she had "constructive possession", or the right to control the substance even if it was in a different room. People v Bercheny, 387 Mich 431; 196 NW2d 767 (1972).
  • Second, that the defendant knew that he or she possessed a controlled substance.
  • Third, that the defendant intended to deliver the controlled substance to someone else.
  • Fourth, that the individual knew that the heroin was possessed in a quantity at the amount that the prosecutor is charging him or her with (the weight of the heroin correlates with the maximum penalty at law). People v Mass, 464 Mich 615; 628 NW2d 540 (2001).

The penalties for manufacturing, delivering or possessing with intent to deliver heroin are as follows:

  • If the amount of heroin is 1,000 grams or more, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by imprisonment for life or any term of years or a fine of not more than $1,000,000.00, or both. MCL 333.7401(2)(a)(i).
  • If the amount of heroin is 450 grams or more but less than 1,000 grams, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by imprisonment up to 30 years or a fine of not more than $500,000.00, or both. MCL 333.7401(2)(a)(ii).
  • If the amount of heroin is 50 grams or more but less than 450 grams, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by imprisonment up to 20 years or a fine of not more than $250,000.00, or both. MCL 333.7401(2)(a)(iii).
  • If the amount of heroin is less than 50 grams, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by imprisonment up to 20 years or a fine of not more than $25,000.00, or both. MCL 333.7401(2)(a)(iv).

POSSESSION OF HEROIN (MCL 333.7403(2)(a))

An individual is guilty of illegally possessing heroin if the prosecutor can prove ALL of the following beyond a reasonable doubt (Model Criminal Jury Instruction 12.5):

  • First, that the individual possessed heroin. Possession does not necessarily mean ownership. It can mean that the person had actual physical control or dominion over the substance (e.g. in his or her hand or pocket). People v Germaine, 234 Mich 623, 627; 208 NW 705 (1926). It can also mean that he or she had "constructive possession", or the right to control the substance even if it was in a different room. People v Bercheny, 387 Mich 431; 196 NW2d 767 (1972). However, a person is no longer "possessing" heroin if they have already ingested it.
  • Second, that the defendant knew that he or she possessed a controlled substance.
  • Third, that the individual knew that the heroin was possessed in a quantity at the amount that the prosecutor is charging him or her with (the weight of the heroin correlates with the maximum penalty at law). People v Mass, 464 Mich 615; 628 NW2d 540 (2001).

The penalties for possession of heroin are as follows:

  • If the amount of heroin is 1,000 grams or more, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by imprisonment for life or any term of years or a fine of not more than $1,000,000.00, or both. MCL 333.7403(2)(a)(i).
  • If the amount of heroin is 450 grams or more but less than 1,000 grams, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by imprisonment up to 30 years or a fine of not more than $500,000.00, or both. MCL 333.7403(2)(a)(ii).
  • If the amount of heroin is 50 grams or more but less than 450 grams, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by imprisonment up to 20 years or a fine of not more than $250,000.00, or both. MCL 333.7403(2)(a)(iii).
  • If the amount of heroin is less than 25 grams, the penalty is a felony conviction punishable by imprisonment up to 4 years or a fine of not more than $25,000.00, or both. MCL 333.7403(2)(a)(v).
  • Driver's license will be suspended for six months (but suspended for one year if the individual has any prior controlled substance convictions within seven years of the violation). MCL 333.7408a(1).

USE OF HEROIN (MCL 333.7404(2)(a))

An individual is guilty of illegally using heroin if the prosecutor can prove ALL of the following beyond a reasonable doubt (Model Criminal Jury Instruction 12.6):

  • First, that the defendant used a controlled substance.
  • Second, that the substance used was heroin.
  • Third, that at the time he or she used it, the defendant knew the substance was heroin.

The penalty for using heroin is a misdemeanor conviction punishable by up to 1 year in jail or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both. In addition, the driver's license will be suspended for six months (but suspended for one year if the individual has any prior controlled substance convictions within seven years of the violation). MCL 333.7408a(1).

DEFENSES

Some defenses available at law related to manufacturing, delivering, possessing or using heroin include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • NOT ACTUALLY CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE - It is not enough for conviction that the defendant thought he was making, distributing or possessing heroin if the substance was not actually heroin. There are so many derivatives of opioids available and much of the available heroin is mixed with other substances to the point that it is beyond recognition. A laboratory test of the actual substance may conclude it is not heroin and lead to a dismissal of charges.
  • UNWITTING POSSESSION - Often times, an individual may not realize that they are in possession of a controlled substance. For example, you may borrow someone's jacket or drive someone else's car, and a police search of the jacket or vehicle may reveal the presence of drugs without knowing beforehand. Of course, the police will assume that the contraband belongs to you. A lack of knowledge can be a defense that the jury will believe.
  • LACK OF CONSTRUCTIVE POSSESSION - If a vehicle with five occupants is pulled over and heroin is discovered under the passenger seat, then all five occupants can be charged with being in constructive possession of the drugs. A lack of control, possession or ownership over the controlled substances (whether actual or constructive) can be a total defense to these serious charges.

Any controlled substance charge is extremely serious, and a conviction will change your life forever. You cannot settle for anything less than the most skilled lawyers in your corner. An attorney may review the evidence and determine that the police illegally seized the drugs contrary to the Fourth Amendment. If a judge grants a motion to suppress the evidence, this may lead to a total dismissal of the charges. Even if the evidence is fairly strong, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a resolution that avoids a conviction or license sanctions down the road (e.g. deferral under "7411" or Holmes Youthful Trainee Act). In addition, an attorney may be able to negotiate a sentence that includes a drug treatment program in lieu of immediate jail or prison.

If you are charged with manufacturing, delivering, possessing or using any controlled substance, do not hesitate to contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.

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