Wisconsin drug crimes: do not face the prosecution alone

Consequences of a drug-related conviction are too severe to go it alone.

In July 2016, police arrested a 43-year-old man in Madison after the defendant reportedly sold heroin to an undercover officer. At the man's residence, police found weapons, ammunition, heroin and drug paraphernalia.

WKOW reported that he faces charges of manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance, maintenance of a drug dwelling and possession of a firearm as a felon. In Illinois, he faces a warrant for violating parole.

According to a city press release, the defendant is a felon with a violent criminal history. In Wisconsin, however, not only are seasoned criminals at risk of arrest for drug crimes, but also a broad spectrum of everyday people - college students, juveniles, homemakers, professionals, blue-collar workers and others.

Drug crimes under Wisconsin law

Wisconsin state law mirrors federal law in that it classifies drugs into five schedules. Schedule I controlled substances are the most dangerous and Schedule V the least, looking at factors like the potential for abuse, medical uses and danger to health.

The drug schedules are extensive and include many drugs of which the average person has never heard. More common drugs included are:

  • Methamphetamine
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine and crack
  • Ecstasy and other synthetic "club drugs"
  • Heroin and other opioids
  • Prescription or over-the-counter medications like fentanyl, Dilaudid, morphine, Ritalin, Adderall, Oxycontin, Methadone, Vicodin, Ambien and many others

Wisconsin law criminalizes certain well known behaviors regarding drugs like:

  • Possession
  • Delivery
  • Manufacture
  • Sale
  • Distribution
  • Trafficking

Other lesser-known drug crimes involve drug paraphernalia, drug dwellings or buildings, date rape drugs, drug-related death, driving under the influence of drugs and others.

Criminal penalties for Wisconsin drug convictions

For a drug conviction a defendant could go to prison, pay fines and get parole or probation. Other potential repercussions:

  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Loss of commercial drivers license or CDL
  • Negative impact on immigration status
  • Ineligibility for federal financial aid for college
  • Loss of professional license
  • University disciplinary action for students
  • Damage to professional and personal reputation and relationships
  • Limits from having a criminal record like difficulty finding a job

Punishment is more severe if the offense involved a minor or a large amount of drugs, was near a school, or if the defendant has prior offenses. Federal law may also impose severe penalties.

Legal counsel is imperative

Wisconsin law enforcement dedicates significant resources to uncovering drug crime. In this endeavor, innocent people could get swept up in a sting. On the other hand, sometimes people make poor choices concerning drugs that lead to potential charges. Anyone facing drug charges should speak with a lawyer immediately to advocate on the defendant's behalf.

The cost of conviction is too great to go it alone against a complex and powerful system. Legal counsel will communicate with the prosecution on behalf of the client to see if the charges can be dismissed as well as explore the advisability of a plea bargain.

A defense attorney may advocate for his or her client's acceptance into the Wisconsin Drug Court, such as the one in Dane County. Broadly, the Drug Court targets nonviolent defendants to receive judge-monitored drug treatment, successful completion of which can result in reduction or dismissal of charges.

With certain minor possession offenses, a court could order a defendant to treatment instead of imposing a sentence. The defendant must request this option and should treatment fail, the court will impose a traditional sentence.

The criminal defense attorneys at Nicholson, Gansner & Otis, S.C., with offices in Madison, represent people facing investigation, arrest or charges of drug crime and other offenses.