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Enhanced Sentencing for Designated Drug Free Zones

Beginning in the 1980s, states have crafted legislation that creates enhanced sentencing schemes that impose harsher penalties for drug offenses committed near schools. The idea behind these zone laws was that any drug activity near schools endangered the children attending there. Thus, lawmakers began enacting legislation that increased penalties for drug crimes when committed around areas where children were most likely to be present, including, but not limited to, schools. These laws vary by jurisdiction, with distinctions as to the size of the zone, the various locations that the zone covers, the drug offenses covered under the enhanced sentencing regime, and the additional or enhanced penalties that will be imposed. At present, all 50 states and Washington, D.C. have adopted school zone laws, and Illinois has one of the more expansive versions of this scheme. If you are facing a drug charge subject to enhanced sentencing in the Chicago metropolitan area due these drug free zone laws, the Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C. can provide you with experienced representation to mount an effective defense against an enhanced drug charge.

Development of Drug Free Zones in Illinois

According to the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, the first enhanced sentencing laws for defined zones in Illinois were enacted in 1985, when the state began imposing double penalties for any individual selling a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of any school. Seven years later, the Illinois legislature provided additional language to these zone laws that imposed enhanced sentencing requirements even though children were not present during the drug sale. From 1988 to 1999, additional zones were included in these enhanced penalty schemes to include public housing, truck and rest stops, public housing facilities, nursing homes, and places of worship. The Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy found that these zones, when consolidated, effectively put most of Chicago within the enhanced sentencing scheme.

A previous version of Illinois’ drug zone laws imposed even harsher penalties – it included a provision that required 15- and 16-year olds who were charged with drug offenses in a drug free zone be automatically tried as adults. However, in 2006, the state legislature successfully revised this provision to provide courts with discretion as to whether a youth in a drug zone case should be prosecuted as an adult. This revision took place after studies revealed extreme racial disparities in its application – 99 percent of all the youth transferred to adult court under that law were either African American or Hispanic. Additionally, data showed that the majority of youth transferred had not properly received juvenile court services and, after being transferred, received adult probation. This made the youth ineligible for services available to juvenile offenders but eligible for all the harsh consequences facing adults for probation violations. As of January 1, 2016, new juvenile laws take effect in Illinois, which provide that teenagers below sixteen years of age will automatically begin their court process in juvenile court, regardless of the charges they face.

Current Penalties without Drug Zone Enhancement

Sections 401 and 404 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, Chapter 720, Part 570 (720 ILCS 570/401) prohibits individuals from:

  • (401) Knowingly manufacturing, delivering, or possessing with intent to manufacture or deliver, a controlled substance;
  • (401.1) Knowingly bringing or causing to be brought into Illinois a controlled substance or counterfeit substance for the purpose of manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance or with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance;
  • (401.5(a)) Manufacturing a controlled substance by chemically deriving the controlled substance from one or more already-prohibited controlled substances;
  • (401.5(a-5) Possessing any substance with the intent to use it to facilitate the manufacture of any controlled substance or any counterfeit substance; and
  • (404) Knowingly manufacturing, distributing, advertising, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute a look-alike substance, which is a substance that by overall appearance, taste, consistency, or any other identifying physical characteristic would lead a reasonable person to believe is as controlled substance.

There are five classes of felonies in Illinois, and drug crimes involving manufacturing and distribution or sale can be of any class – X, 1, 2, 3, and 4, in descending order from the most to the least serious. The class of felony and corresponding penalties depend upon the controlled substance and the amount involved in the offense. The potential penalties are:

  • For Class X felonies, the possible prison or jail term ranges from six to sixty years and a possible fine of up to $500,000, or the full street value of the controlled substance involved in the offense, whichever is greater;
  • For Class 1 felonies, the possible prison or jail term ranges from four to fifteen years, and a possible fine of up to $250,000;
  • For Class 2 felonies, the possible prison or jail term ranges from three to seven years, and a possible fine of up to $200,000;
  • For Class 3 felonies, the possible prison or jail term ranges from two to five years, with possible fines ranging from $75,000 to $150,000; and
  • For Class 4 felonies, the possible prison or jail term ranges from one to three years, with a possible fine of up to $25,000.
Enhanced Penalties within Drug Zones

Section 407 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, Chapter 720, Part 570 (720 ILCS 570/407) contains the enhanced penalty scheme for designated drug zones. The zones are defined as follows:

  • Truck stops or safety rest areas, or within 1,000 feet thereof;
  • Schools or in vehicles contracted by a school to transport students to and from school or a school-related activity, or within 1,000 feet thereof;
  • Residential property owned, operated, or managed by a public housing agency, or within 1,000 feet thereof;
  • Residential property leased by a public housing agency as part of a scattered site or mixed-income development, or within 1,000 feet thereof;
  • Public parks or within 1,000 feet thereof;
  • Real property comprising any church, synagogue, or other building, structure or place used primarily for religious worship, or within 1,000 feet thereof;
  • Real property used primarily for housing or providing space for activities for senior citizens such as nursing homes, assisted-living centers, senior citizen housing complexes, or senior centers oriented toward daytime activities, or within 1,000 feet thereof.

Under the enhanced penalty scheme, any person who is at least 18 years old who knowingly delivers a controlled or look-alike substance in violation of Sections 401 or 404 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes to a youth under 18 years of age may be sentenced to a jail term of up to twice the maximum term as well as be ordered to pay up to twice the maximum fine. With regard to truck stops and rest areas, the enhanced penalty scheme increases the penalties for a second conviction of delivering a controlled substance in a truck stop, rest area, or 1,000 feet thereof. That increased penalty is up to two times the maximum prison term possible and twice the maximum fine otherwise provided for in the statute.

As to the other zones identified in the statute, it enhances the already-existing penalty for certain controlled substances and amounts that the distribution or sale of which are not already punishable as a Class X felony. For example, distribution or sale offenses that were originally classified as Class 1 felonies are enhanced to a Class X felony if conducted within designated drug free zones – schools, public housing, public parks, property used primarily for religious worship, nursing homes, and senior citizen centers. Additionally, the statute explicitly provides that the enhanced sentencing scheme is applicable regardless of time of day or year and whether classes were in session at the time of the offense.

The enhanced sentencing scheme for the distribution or sale of controlled substances within designated drug free zones can result in severe penalties for those charged, if convicted. If you are facing these types of drug charges in Chicago, Cook County, or DuPage County, the Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C. can help you mount a fervent defense. David Freidberg has over 20 years of experience as a criminal defense attorney that he will bring as your advocate in these complex proceedings. You should contact us today at (312) 560-7100 or toll-free at (800) 803-1142 for effective representation as early in the process as possible. You may also email us or complete our online form, and we will get back to you as quickly as possible. We are available 24/7.