Your heroin addiction began innocently. You got into a car accident. You suffered serious injuries to your neck or back and continue to suffer from chronic pain. You see a doctor, who prescribes narcotic pain medication. Over time, the pain pills do not work as well as before, and so you need to take more to get the same effect. Over time, you become dependent, and then addicted to the substance. When the doctor will not prescribe you any more pills, or when the pills become too expensive, the street drug, heroin, sadly became an alternative. Now you are facing heroin charges in Maine and wondering the impacts it will have on your home, family and job.
When facing heroin charges in Maine, you will not receive any sympathy from the State’s Drug Enforcement Agency, local police, or the District Attorney’s Office. Under Maine law, heroin crimes are serious felonies. You need a criminal defense attorney to help you fight the heroin charges in Maine. I am an experienced criminal defense attorney who has handled a multitude of cases, including numerous drug cases. I encourage you to contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation. I am happy to answer your questions. Once you decide to become my client, I will defend your case aggressively. As we talk about the details of your case at the free consultation, one of things we discuss is the line in the sand. If you choose my firm to represent you, we are going to draw a line in the sand. On our side of the line is your future how you envision it to be. On the other side of the line is the Portland District Attorney, with their charges, penalties and potential jail time. We will also discuss the repercussions a conviction for heroin charges in Maine will have on your ability to get a job, or keep your existing profession.
As your lawyer, we will do everything in our power to stop them from crossing that line. We will fight for you using all of our passion, conviction, and influence. Given my decade of experience, this article is to help answer some of your questions about fighting heroin charges in Maine and how a criminal defense attorney can help defend you against the charge. We will review:
- How a criminal defense attorney can help?
- What are the laws regarding heroin charges in Maine?
- How do the courts process heroin charges in Maine?
- What are the impacts if I am convicted of heroin charges in Maine?
How your criminal defense attorney can help
Your criminal defense attorney is crucial to preserving your rights and fighting the State’s case against you. If you try to represent yourself at Court, the State’s attorney or prosecutor will not negotiate a favorable resolution with you or make you a reasonable plea offer. If you do not have a lawyer, the State’s attorney knows that they can win at trial. In serious heroin cases, a criminal defense attorney challenges the State’s case against you in a number of ways:
- Were there any problems with the way the police interrogated you? A police interrogation needs to be conducted in a way that respects your constitutional rights. Before interrogating you, police are supposed to inform you of your Miranda rights, which include the right to remain silent (i.e. not answer police questions) and the right to have a criminal defense attorney present during police questioning. If any evidence or statements are obtained without having informed you of your Miranda rights, then your criminal defense attorney can argue to have the questionable evidence suppressed (excluded) from the case so that they cannot be used against you at later court proceedings.
- Did you agree to invite the police inside to “look around?” Often, police or the DEA may conduct their investigation by asking to come inside your home to have a “look around.” If you agreed to let the police in, you would be held responsible legally for anything that the police find in your house. This includes any potential substances found. However, if Law Enforcement gained entry by putting you in duress or by threatening you, any evidence found resulting from the search of your home may be excluded.
- Did the police’s witnesses change their stories over time? In criminal cases, a possible scenario is that the State’s witnesses might tell a different story of what happened after the passage of time. To find this out, you can also employ the services of a private investigator who can interview the witnesses a second time, or to interview witnesses that might have been overlooked by police in their initial investigation. If the witness’s stories have indeed changed, this will be important for your defense.
- Contemplate signing up for a substance abuse rehabilitation program early in the case. If the State performs a thorough investigation that can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the heroin crime accused, it might be important for your defense to consider engaging early in substance abuse rehabilitation. Addressing any substance abuse problems head-on can potentially work towards getting a foothold in negotiating a better resolution for your heroin charges in Maine.
What is the law for heroin charges in Maine?
Heroin is a Schedule W Drug according to 17-A M.R.S.A. §1102. Schedule W drugs in Maine include many “street” drugs, and the penalties associated with Schedule W drugs carry the most severe penalties. Heroin is categorized as a “narcotic” along with the following related substances: diacetylmorphine, methadone, methadone hydrochloride, levo-alpha-acetyl-methadol, or LAAM, pethidine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, fentanyl and opium. There are several different types of heroin charges in Maine.
Possession of Heroin means having heroin on your person, in your home, or in your car 17-A M.R.S.A. §1107-A. Possession of heroin in Maine is a Class C felony. The maximum penalties for a Class C felony include up to $5,000.00 in fines and up to 5 years jail time.
Furnishing Heroin means giving heroin to another person 17-A M.R.S.A. §1106. When the furnishing charge for heroin is non-aggravated, meaning that there are no aggravating factors present in the facts, the charge is a Class C felony. The maximum penalties for a Class C felony crime include up to $5,000.00 in fines and up to 5 years jail time. Furnishing heroin is also a Class C felony if giving the other person the drug results in serious injury.
An aggravating factor makes the furnishing charge more severe. Aggravating factors include the following:
- Furnishing heroin with the assistance of a minor
- Furnishing heroin near a school or safe zone
- Furnishing heroin while possessing firearms
- Furnishing heroin while having a prior criminal record for felonies or similar drug-related offense
- Being found in possession of over six (6) grams of heroin or 270 individual packets containing heroin
A charge of Aggravated Furnishing of Heroin is considered a Class B felony 17-A M.R.S.A. §1105-C. If convicted of an Aggravated Furnishing charge, the State of Maine will impose a mandatory minimum jail sentence of two (2) years. A mandatory minimum is the least severe penalty allowable by law for that conviction. The maximum penalties for a Class B felony conviction include up to $20,000.00 in fines and up to ten (10) years jail time. In addition, if you were accused of using a car in the course of furnishing heroin, you could lose your driver’s license for up to five (5) years upon conviction.
Trafficking Heroin means manufacturing, transporting, and selling the substance to another person 17-A M.R.S.A. §1103. When the heroin trafficking charge is non-aggravated, it is a Class B felony. Small amounts of heroin do not affect the severity of the charge. Upon conviction of a non-aggravated heroin trafficking charge, the maximum penalties include up to $20,000.00 in fines and up to ten (10) years jail time.
Aggravating factors make a heroin trafficking charge more severe. Aggravating factors include the following:
- Trafficking heroin with the assistance of a minor
- Trafficking heroin near a school or safe zone
- Trafficking heroin while possessing firearms
- Trafficking heroin while having a prior criminal record for felonies or similar drug-related offense
- Being found in possession of over six (6) grams of heroin or 270 individual packets containing heroin
A charge of Aggravated Heroin Trafficking is considered a Class A felony 17-A M.R.S.A. §1105-A. A Class A felony is the most severe class of crime in Maine. If convicted of an Aggravated Heroin Trafficking charge, the State of Maine will impose a mandatory minimum jail sentence of four (4) years. A mandatory minimum is the least severe penalty allowable by law for that conviction. The maximum penalties for a Class A felony conviction include up to $50,000.00 in fines and up to thirty (30) years jail time. In addition, if you were accused of using a car in the course of heroin trafficking, you could lose your driver’s license for up to five (5) years upon conviction.
How do the courts process heroin charges in Maine?
Another area your criminal defense attorney can help is to go over the court process and legal procedure, so you know what to expect. In Portland Maine, the Court uses the Unified Criminal Docket which I’ll review to give you a frame of reference on what to expect and how an attorney can assist you in fighting heroin charges in Maine. If your case is outside of Cumberland County (or Penobscot County), your heroin charges in Maine may processed using the District/Superior Court system. As always if you have any questions, please give me a call and I will be happy to explain the process to you.
Unified Criminal Docket Procedure
When facing heroin charges in Maine, the unified criminal docket is the court procedure at both the Portland court and the Bangor court. All criminal cases in these areas progress through this court procedure.
For heroin charges in Maine, your first court date is an Initial Appearance, where any issues pertaining to bail can be addressed, followed later by your Arraignment. Arraignment is where the details of the charge are read to you, and you have the opportunity to plead Not Guilty. The next important court date for heroin charges in Maine is a Dispositional Conference, where the lawyers for both sides attempt to reach a resolution to the case without going to a trial. In the event that no resolution is reached at the Dispositional Conference, then the case would progress to a Motion Hearing, Jury Selection, and Trial.
The Motion Hearing is the opportunity to hear arguments on any pretrial motions, such as a Motion to Suppress, which will affect what evidence will be admissible at trial. A Trial is what most people think of as their “day in court.” The State will try to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt based on the physical evidence and any witness statements. The criminal defense lawyer’s objective is to reveal reasonable doubt whether the defendant in fact committed the crime as accused. After both sides present their case, it goes to the Jury, to determine guilt or innocence.
District and Superior Court Procedure
Every county in Maine has a network of District Courts and Superior Courts. If facing a felony charge, such as heroin charges in Maine, your case would begin at the Superior Court. Your first court date at the Superior Court is an Initial Appearance, which is your first time in front of a Judge. At your Initial Appearance, a Status Conference, or check-in date, is set. When you are charged with a felony, you first need to be indicted by a grand jury before you can be Arraigned. If you are indicted by your Status Conference date, then your Arraignment can be held. However, if you are not indicted by your Status Conference date, then your Arraignment would be set later.
After Arraignment, your next court date at the Superior Court is Docket Call. Docket Call is similar to the Dispositional Conference at the unified criminal docket in that the purpose of the court date is to attempt to reach a resolution through negotiation. If no resolution is agreed to at Docket Call, then the case would progress to any Motion Hearings, Jury Selection, and Trial as you and your attorney fight the heroin charges in Maine.
An important part of preparing for a trial is discussing with your attorney what the possible outcomes of a trial might be. Even though we would like to be able to read the minds of jurors, we cannot predict how a jury might decide. Therefore, it is as necessary to prepare with your criminal defense lawyer for the possibility of losing as well as the possibility of winning, and to make an informed decision how to proceed fighting your heroin charges in Maine.
What are the impacts of a conviction for heroin charges in Maine?
If you are convicted of a felony crime, then you become labeled as a “felon.” Facing felon status has collateral consequences that extend far beyond any potential sentence for the crime. Just a few of the uphill challenges a felon faces includes:
- Employment discrimination against those with felony criminal records
- Becoming a person forbidden from owning or possessing any firearms, including all sporting firearms
- Barriers to international travel, including travel to Canada
This list is by no means exhaustive. All of these things make it essential to have the sage advice of a criminal defense attorney to defend your case aggressively at court.
For more information on heroin charges in Maine
If you liked this article on heroin charges in Maine, you might find these other articles helpful.