State and federal laws aggressively punish suppliers and users alike for manufacturing, delivering, possessing or using illegal controlled substances without a prescription or other legal authority. Addiction to illicit substances like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine is reaching epidemic levels throughout the country. In response, the United States has declared war on drugs and authorized criminal statutes that punish offenders with long prison sentences, lifetime community supervision and electronic monitoring. The State of Michigan also maintains tough penal drug laws on its books and much of its prison population is serving lengthy sentences for non-violent controlled substance offenses.
The effects of a controlled substance conviction in Michigan go far beyond the fines, costs and incarceration provided by law. The following is a list of additional consequences that come with committing drug crimes:
- DRIVER’S LICENSE SANCTIONS: “As part of the sentence or juvenile disposition for an attempt to violate, a conspiracy to violate, or a violation of Michigan’s Public Health Code or of a local ordinance that prohibits conduct prohibited, …. the court shall … impose licensing sanctions in addition to any other penalty or sanction imposed.” MCL 333.7408a(1). “If the court finds that the person does not have a prior conviction within 7 years of the violation, the court shall order the secretary of state to suspend the operator’s or chauffeur’s license of the person for 6 months.” MCL 333.7408a(1)(a). If the court finds that the person has 1 or more prior convictions within 7 years of the violation, the court shall order the secretary of state to suspend the operator’s or chauffeur’s license of the person for 1 year. MCL 333.7408a(1)(b). The court, however, may order a restricted license instead upon a showing by the offender that “[t]he person needs vehicular transportation to and from his or her work location, place of alcohol or drug education treatment, court probation department, court-ordered community service program, or educational institution, or in the course of the person’s employment or occupation” and he or she is “unable to take public transportation and does not have any family members or other individual able to provide transportation”. MCL 333.7408a(8).
- LOSS OF PROFESSIONAL LICENSES: A drug conviction can impact your future in your current profession. Lawyers can be disbarred by the State Bar of Michigan for felony drug convictions. Doctors, accountants, architects, teachers and other professionals may also have their professional licenses yanked by their various boards.
- IMMIGRATION ISSUES: Even if lawfully in the country, a controlled substance offense can cause non-citizen residents in the United States to be deported. An alien who ANY TIME after admission has been convicted of a violation of (or a conspiracy or attempt to violate) any controlled substance offense under federal or state law (other than possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana for personal use) is deportable. 8 U.S.C. §1227(a)(2)(B)(i). In addition, any alien who is or at any time after admission is or has been a drug abuser or addict is deportable. 8 U.S.C. §1227(a)(2)(B)(ii).
- INELIGIBLE FOR FEDERAL EDUCATION TAX CREDITS: Eligible college students may qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit which can pay for the qualified tuition and related expenses paid by the taxpayer during the year for education furnished to the eligible student up to a maximum of $4,000.00. 26 U.S.C. §25A(b)(1). However, this higher education credit is completely disallowed to any student who “has been convicted of a federal or state felony offense consisting of the possession or distribution of a controlled substance…” 26 U.S.C. §25A(b)(2)(D). In addition, students convicted of drug crimes may be ineligible for student loans backed by the federal government and may be forced to find financing with private banks at much higher interest rates.
- ACCELERATED EVICTION PROCEEDINGS: Tenants in residential rental properties or homeowners in mobile home parks risk speedy eviction procedures by their landlords and park managers respectively for controlled substance violations. Normally, landlords can apply for eviction proceedings in district court either 7 or 30 days after serving a demand for possession, but this time period shrinks to 24 hours when drugs are involved. A landlord is entitled to possession of the premises by summary proceedings for illegal drug use “[w]hen a person holds over premises for 24 hours following service of a written demand for possession for termination of the lease pursuant to a clause in the lease providing for termination because a tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or other person under the tenant’s control has unlawfully manufactured, delivered, possessed with intent to deliver, or possessed a controlled substance on the leased premises.” MCL 600.5714(1)(b). However, this provision ONLY applies “if a formal police report has been filed alleging that the person has unlawfully manufactured, delivered, possessed with intent to deliver, or possessed a controlled substance on the leased premises.” MCL 600.5714(1)(b).
A felony drug conviction will also subject the offender to the same consequences that other felons must suffer in the State of Michigan. Convicted felons are ineligible to serve on juries in state court. A convicted felon is generally prohibited from possessing, using, selling, purchasing or transporting any firearms or ammunition for a specified period of time after the conviction. In addition, if a person is previously convicted of a felony and commits a new felony, that person can be subject to enhanced penalties at sentencing under Michigan’s Habitual Offender Statute. A second habitual offender with one prior felony is subject to a 50% enhancement of the maximum sentence (e.g. 4-year max felony offenses become 6-year felony offenses). A third habitual offender with two prior felonies is subject to a 100% enhancement of the maximum sentence (e.g. 5-year max felony offenses become 10-year offenses). As a fourth habitual offender with three prior felonies, new felony offenses that carry maximum penalties less than 5 years are now 15-year maximum felonies, but new felony offense that carry maximum penalties 5 years or greater can now result in a maximum of LIFE IN PRISON.
A drug conviction may also affect your prospects for housing and employment. Landlords and employers can run background checks and decline to make an offer to the applicant based on their criminal past. Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts prevents discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin and other protected classes, but people convicted of drug crimes do not fall under this umbrella. Even going back to school may be challenging. Admissions departments may be reluctant to take a chance on a new student who has controlled substance use in their past.
The enormous effect of a drug crime conviction cannot be overstated. If you are charged with a controlled substance offense, you need a skilled criminal defense lawyer that will aggressively protect your rights and try to minimize or eliminate many of the unfortunate consequences that can result by losing. An attorney can try to secure a dismissal or acquittal by holding the prosecutor to the high burden of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, suppress evidence illegally seized, or suppressing “confessions” illegal coerced by the police. Even if the evidence against you is fairly strong, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a resolution that avoids a conviction (e.g. deferral under “7411” or Holmes Youthful Trainee Act) or possible a plea bargain to a lesser non-drug charge. In addition, an attorney may be able to negotiate a sentence that includes a drug treatment program in lieu of immediate jail or prison. You only have one opportunity to mount an effective criminal defense.
If you or a loved one is charged with any controlled substance offense and need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.