Possession of Heroin

Heroin is a dangerous drug that can destroy the lives of those who use it, as well as the lives of family and friends of the users. Given the drug’s debilitating nature, users can become addicted and have lapses in judgment that can have devastating consequences — including being charged with a serious crime.

Heroin possession is a felony in Illinois. If you’re convicted, you may suffer harsh penalties and experience lasting negative effects that can include:

  • A lengthy jail or prison sentence, as much as 50 years
  • Crushing fines of as much as $200,000
  • Lost visitation rights or custody of a child
  • A permanent criminal record that may negatively impact employment or rental housing searches
  • Lost eligibility for federal financial aid to pay for higher education
  • Lost professional license to practice law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, teaching, or another profession
  • Lost immigration visa or green card, denial of citizenship, or deportation

It doesn’t have to be this way. A professional and knowledgeable Illinois drug defense attorney may be able to help you avoid being found guilty of heroin possession, or reduce the penalties and consequences of your charge.

Defining Possession of Heroin

Illinois statute 720 ILCS 570/402 makes it a felony to possess any amount of heroin. To secure a conviction, a prosecutor has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you:

  • Were in possession of a controlled substance
  • The substance was in fact heroin
  • You knew it was heroin
  • You knew that you possessed it

One common misconception about heroin possession charges is that the person arrested must have the drug on their person (either in a pocket or a backpack they are carrying). Instead, a person may be charged when they are simply near—and can access—the drug in question. For example, someone may be charged with heroin possession if it is found in his or her dresser or in a drawer in his or her kitchen.

There are essentially two ways that you can be in possession of heroin:

  • Actual Possession — This means the heroin was on your person. You were in physical possession.
  • Constructive Possession — This is a broader concept of possession that means the heroin was not in your physical possession, but within your “dominion and control.” In other words, if you had the ability to claim physical possession, you could be considered in constructive possession. Constructive possession could include having heroin in your bedroom nightstand or in the glove box of your car.

A prosecutor must be able to prove that you were knowingly in actual or constructive possession of heroin. If the evidence doesn’t support that you were in possession, that you knew you were in possession, or that the substance wasn’t heroin or another illegal controlled substance, you may have a defense to the charge.

Possible Penalties for a Possession of Heroin Conviction

Heroin possession is a felony that carries severe penalties if you’re convicted. Those include:

  • Those accused of possessing up to 15 grams may face 1 to 3 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.
  • Those accused of possessing between 15 and 100 grams may face 4 to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $200,000.
  • Those accused of possessing between 100 and 400 grams may face 6 to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $200,000 (or the full street value of the drugs).
  • Those accused of possessing between 400 and 900 grams may face 8 to 40 years in prison and fines of up to $200,000 (or the full street value of the drugs).
  • Those accused of possessing more than 900 grams may face 10 to 50 years in prison and fines of up to $200,000 (or the full street value of the drugs).

Common Defenses to Illinois Heroin Possession Charges

A resourceful Illinois drug defense attorney can help guide you through the legal proceedings and establish a workable course of action. Those may include:

  • Getting the case dismissed
  • Convincing a judge or jury to find you not guilty
  • Getting your charge reduced
  • Persuading a judge that you deserve leniency
  • Being ordered to complete a substance abuse program instead of serving jail or prison time

Achieving the best possible outcome is dependent upon having a strong defense strategy. Some common ways that a skilled Chicago drug defense attorney might tackle a drug charge include:

  • Investigation errors: A great defense lawyer can look at whether charges followed a flawed investigation or if officials received wrong information from a confidential informant.
  • Violation of legal rights: When you’re charged with a crime, you’re entitled to certain legal rights. Accordingly, an experienced defense lawyer will scrutinize every facet of the case built by law enforcement to determine whether a defendant’s search and seizure rights or other constitutional rights were violated and whether grounds exist to prevent illegally obtained evidence from being used in court.
  • Leniency: When the facts and evidence overwhelmingly suggest you’ll be convicted, your defense lawyer may ask the court to take mental health or addiction struggles or other mitigating circumstances into consideration and plead for leniency. If you have no prior criminal history, you may be eligible to enter a drug diversion program.

Are you facing heroin possession charges? A Chicago drug defense attorney can help.

Chicago drug defense attorney Michael O’Meara wants to help people accused of heroin possession understand their charge, resolve a difficult situation, and begin a new chapter of their lives.

O’Meara possesses the experience, determination, and acumen to help you fight dubious drug charges. With more than two decades of legal experience both prosecuting and defending drug charges, he understands the complexity and nuances of these types of cases. His experience with both sides of the criminal court process gives him a unique ability to evaluate your case and craft a strong defense strategy designed to get you the justice in court.

If you have been charged with heroin possession, you should reach out to an attorney ready to fight for your rights. Contact O’Meara Law LLC at for a consultation and to learn your options.