What are Drug Conviction Consequences?

A drug conviction can impact your life in ways both expected and unexpected. Felonies and other serious convictions can be financially devastating and lead to substantial jail or prison time, but even the aftermath of a misdemeanor conviction can be felt for years.

In Illinois, when you’re convicted of a crime you then have a permanent criminal record that may be visible in background checks conducted by potential employers or landlords. Depending on the nature of your charge, being accused of a drug crime can affect your relationships with family and friends, or result in your having a stigma in the community.

For these reasons, it’s important to seek the help of a skilled Illinois criminal defense attorney when you’re charged with a drug offense. A great defense attorney can help you understand your case, explain your legal options, develop a strong defense strategy, and work to minimize — or eliminate — the possible effects a conviction will have on your life.

Factors Involved in Drug Sentences

Of course, the optimal outcome of a criminal charge is to have the charge dismissed or to be found not guilty. However, sometimes the facts and circumstances are stacked against you and the best outcome involves a reduction in your charge or penalties.

If you are found guilty, a dedicated Illinois drug defense lawyer can present evidence and testimony designed to earn leniency or sentencing alternatives such as drug diversion. Factors that may be at work in determining your sentence if you’re found guilty of an Illinois drug crime may include:

  • Severity of the charge – Drug charges can include possession, delivery, manufacturing, trafficking, or possession with intent. Each charge may bring with it varying amounts of jail or prison time and/or monetary punishment. Generally, offenses related to drug dealing or trafficking are punished more severely, and potential prison sentences and fines increase based on the amount of alleged to be drugs involved.
  • Drugs involved – Charges may depend on the quantity and types of drugs involved, including marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, illegal prescription drugs, and psychedelics. Offenses involving certain drugs are punished more severely than others.
  • Mental health – A defendant’s mental health status may play a part in how a case is handled. Diagnosis of a mental illness may lead a prosecutor or judge to agree that treatment is a better outcome than jail or prison.
  • Prior Criminal History – Repeat offenders generally receive harsher penalties than first-time offenders. Someone who is being charged or convicted for the first time stands a better chance at receiving lighter penalties or alternatives such as drug diversion or probation.

Possible Legal Penalties for an Illinois Drug Conviction

Drug offenses involve a litany of legal consequences that can range from minor to life-altering. These are some of the common legal penalties associated with Illinois drug charges:

  • Jail or penitentiary sentences – Those found guilty of drug-related charges may face time in a jail for relatively minor offenses, or prison for more serious offenses. Some Illinois drug offenses may involve up to 60 years in a state penitentiary if you’re found guilty.
  • Fines – You’re likely to be sentenced to pay some type of fine. Fines increase based on the severity of the offense. Some Illinois drug offenses can be punished with substantial, life-altering fines of up to $500,000. In some cases, you may be asked to pay the full street value of the drugs in question.
  • Treatment – If your drug offense was the result of a substance abuse addiction, you may be ordered to enter a treatment or rehabilitation program in the wake of a guilty finding. This can be an alternative to jail time, depending on your circumstances.
  • Immigration rights – Immigrants found guilty of drug-related charges may lose their immigration visa or green card, be denied citizenship, or be deported. Immigration authorities take a particularly tough stance on felony drug offenses.

Other Consequences of an Illinois Drug Charge

Drug offenses come with fallout that can extend far beyond jail time or fines and create ripple effects that touch numerous areas of your life. Some of those consequences may include:

  • Right to vote – You may lose your right to vote if you’re found guilty of a felony drug offense.
  • Child custody – You may lose child custody or visitation rights, particularly if your offense was committed in the presence of your child.
  • Professional consequences – Someone found guilty of a drug-related crime may lose or be denied a professional license. That includes medical professionals, pharmacists, teachers, architects, insurance agents, lawyers, and other types of licensed professionals.
  • Financial aid – If you’re in college or want to pursue higher education, a drug offense can make you ineligible for financial aid to pay for school.
  • Job and housing searches – A permanent criminal record may impede your ability to find a job or secure housing.

Are you facing a Chicago drug charge? A Chicago drug crimes lawyer can help.

Chicago drug defense lawyer Michael O’Meara often finds that people facing drug charges are good people who get trapped by difficult circumstances, make seemingly inconsequential mistakes, or struggle with addiction and mental illness. To that end, he prides himself on understanding all aspects of a case, explaining your options, fighting the charges, and helping you move on with your life after a drug charge.

Michael O’Meara has the resources, experience, and skills to defend you against a variety of drug charges. O’Meara has two decades of legal experience that includes both prosecuting and defending drug-related offenses. This experience allows him to understand a case from multiple angles and build a case designed to obtain the best possible result on your behalf.

If you are facing a drug charge, you should reach out to a great defense attorney as soon as possible. Attorney O’Meara will fight to get you a fair outcome for your charge. Contact him today at for a consultation and to learn how he can help.