On October 23rd 2013, Governor LePage hosted two Drug Crimes and Awareness Summits to raise awareness on the impacts of drug crimes within local Maine communities. With this increased focus, the police are focused also on drug crimes which will result in more Maine drug charges.
The Maine Statute on drugs provides guidance on the types of Maine drug charges and the sentences involved in each crime. Common Maine drug charges include possession, trafficking, and furnishing. The class of drug crime and potential sentence can vary based upon the type of drug, the amount possessed, and aggravating factors such as your history of drug crime convictions.
Let’s examine what an individual facing Maine drug charges can anticipate and how they can help themselves for their defense.
- Understanding what are illegal drugs in Maine
- How sentencing is determined for Maine Drug Charges
- How a Maine Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer can help
- The Criminal Court Process for Maine Drug Charges
Illegal Drugs Defined
Under the Maine Statute 17-A M.R.S.A. §1102, the “Schedules” of Illegal drugs are identified. Maine has four (4) Schedules of illegal drugs as follows:
Schedule W: Generally, Schedule W illegal drugs include common “hard” street drugs and narcotics, such as methamphetamine, cocaine in all its forms, Lysergic acid (LSD), barbituric acid and its chemical cousins, heroin and its narcotic chemical cousins, such as methadone and oxycodone, and hallucinogenic drugs, among others.
Schedule X: Schedule X illegal drugs tend to have a depressing effect on a person’s nervous system, and include Chlorhexadol, Nalorphine, and hallucinogenic drugs such as peyote and hashish, among others.
Schedule Y: Schedule Y illegal drugs include many prescription drugs, as well as Barbital, Petrichloral, Codeine, and any compound of a narcotic drug plus a nonnarcotic additive, and Diazepam, among others.
Schedule Z: Schedule Z illegal drugs include marijuana, and this schedule serves as a “catch all” category for any drug not listed under any of the above illegal drug schedules.
Crimes that can be charged involving drugs include Unlawful Trafficking, Unlawful Furnishing, and Unlawful Possession, among other related crimes.
- Trafficking– drug trafficking charges are the manufacture, transportation, distribution, and sale of illegal drugs or narcotics.
- Furnishing– Furnishing drug charges mean to give an illegal drug to another person, with the knowledge that the substance was in fact an illegal drug.
- Possession– Drug possession charges mean to have illegal drugs either on your person, in your home, or in your vehicle.
How sentencing is determined for Maine Drug Charges
Penalties upon conviction of Maine drug charges depend upon a variety of factors.
- How much of the drug was in possession when the crime was charged? The most direct determining factor how severe Maine drug charges can be is the amount of the drug involved. This can be argued by the State at the sentencing phase for a sentence closer to the maximum penalty allowable by law. Usually, the measurement is by weight. In some instances, Maine statute can also measure amounts of illegal drugs by the number of pills, the number of individual drug portions found for trafficking purposes, or the number of marijuana plants being grown. In some situations, the greater the amount of illegal drugs, the more severe Maine drug charges can be.
- Were there aggravating factors in the illegal drug crime that would make the Maine drug charges more serious? Another factor in determining the severity of Maine drug charges is whether aggravating factors were present. If aggravating factors are found, then the Maine drug charges can be more serious. Aggravating factors for Maine drug charges can include:
- Possession of a firearm in the course of committing the illegal drug-related crime
- The presence of minors while committing the illegal drug-related crime
- Committing an illegal drug-related crime within the vicinity of a school
- A criminal history of felony or illegal drug-related criminal convictions already on the accused’s record
- Does conviction for Maine drug charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence? In some cases, an illegal drug-related conviction would trigger a mandatory minimum sentence as a penalty. A mandatory minimum sentence means that is the least severe penalty allowable by law in the event of a conviction. Mandatory minimum penalties cannot be reduced or negotiated down any further.
Generally, the majority of illegal drug-related crimes are considered felonies. In Maine, felony penalties can include maximum fines in a range of $5,000.00-$50,000.00, and/or maximum jail time in a range of 5-30 years.
How a Maine Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer can Help
In my ten plus years of practicing in Maine, I have covered cases from Drug Possession to Drug Trafficking. Hiring a Maine Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer will help you fight this serious charge. Here are some things to consider when looking to hire a criminal defense lawyer:
- Is the Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Experienced in defending your type of charge with the type of drug cited in your case? An experienced Maine Drug Crimes Defense Attorney would be familiar with the Schedule of drug as well as the crime you have been accused of committing. This knowledge will help your lawyer approach defending your case at court.
- Does the Drug Crimes Defense Attorney examine the State’s case for any and all weaknesses or inconsistencies? Because of the severity of the crime, it is essential that the drug crimes defense attorney takes a close look at all of the State’s evidence for any inaccuracies or inconsistencies. These can make a different in the ultimate outcome at court.
- Does the Drug Crimes Defense Attorney search for any violations of your constitutional civil rights? An important part of the case for the District Attorney is the results from the police investigation. If the police obtained any evidence in violation of your constitutional civil rights, then your drug crimes defense attorney can request to have any questionable evidence suppressed (excluded from) being entered into evidence at trial.
Criminal Court Process for Maine Drug Charges
Maine Drug Charges – The Arrest
An arrest for illegal Scheduled drugs can occur in a number of ways, including direct contact with law enforcement either through an investigation, coming into contact with a Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA) undercover agent, or through a police investigation. Or, an arrest can come through the bad luck of being stopped in your car through a minor traffic violation.
Police take their investigations seriously, and communities generally do not appreciate the presence of illegal drugs in their neighborhoods. Nevertheless, when police conduct their investigation, your civil constitutional rights need to be respected. If any evidence or statements are obtained in violation of your constitutional rights, then your defense attorney can argue to have them suppressed (excluded) from the case so that they cannot be used against you at later court proceedings.
In police investigations, beware the police appearing without a warrant asking if they can come in to “just look around,” since finding the drug itself is a fundamental piece of a drug-related charge. If the police do not have a warrant, do not let them in. If you let them in, that means that you will be held responsible for anything that the police find in your home or car because you gave the police permission to search the premises.
If you are arrested on drug charges in Maine, you may be taken to the county jail to be processed. Depending on the case, bail may be set.
Maine Drug Charges – The Arraignment
If a person is charged with a felony in Maine, such as often the case with illegal drug charges, the person needs to be indicted by a grand jury (charged formally) before that person can be Arraigned. If the accused is not indicted by the Initial Appearance, then an Arraignment date would be set after the indictment is handed down.
At the Arraignment, the Defense Attorney can expect to receive a copy of the discovery materials (police reports, etc.) the State is using as the basis to charge the person with the drug crime. Based on defense counsel’s review of the discovery, if the assistance of a private investigator or forensic expert might prove beneficial for the person’s defense, we would discuss whether or not to engage the services of such an expert.
With Maine drug charges, your bail might include release into a diversion program, such as with a Maine Pretrial Services contract, in which you might be required to report regularly and would be subject to random drug testing pending the resolution of your case at court.
Maine Drug Charges – The Dispositional Hearing
The next important court date when fighting Maine drug charges is a Dispositional Hearing, often called a Dispositional Conference or Docket Call. As mentioned earlier, many illegal drug charges are felonies. When facing a felony, your Illegal Drug Defense Attorney, depending on the specific facts of the case, might attempt to have the charges dismissed, dropped down to a misdemeanor, or to obtain a favorable plea agreement from the District Attorney.
In many illegal drug-related cases that I have represented, a common resolution that the client has chosen to accept is called a Deferred Disposition. A deferred disposition is when the District Attorney accepts a guilty plea from you, usually to the drug charges as initially charged, and the issue of sentencing is “deferred” to a later date. In the meantime, you are given a list of requirements that the District Attorney wants you to adhere to, such as a substance abuse counseling requirement. In exchange for your good behavior and compliance with conditions over a period of time (usually for one year, but this can be longer or shorter) the District Attorney can agree to give you a reduced sentence, or to dismiss the charge altogether.
Maine Drug Charges – The Trial
An important part of preparing for a trial is discussing with your attorney what the possible outcomes of a trial might be, because despite our best efforts, we cannot predict what goes on in the minds of jurors that would make them decide a case one way or the other. Therefore, it is important to discuss with your defense lawyer the potential outcomes in the event that you lose as well as in the event that you win, because it is important for the defendant to understand all of the possible outcomes.
Contact Maine Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Chris Nielsen
If you or someone you know is facing Maine drug charges, I encourage you to contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation with an experienced illegal drug defense attorney. We have experience fighting Maine Drug Crime Charges. We know what you are facing and can advise you on the best defense strategy for your circumstances. We will take the time to answer your questions and to put your mind at ease.