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Illinois Drug Distribution Laws

The Illinois Controlled Substances Act criminalizes the knowing possession, manufacture and delivery of certain controlled substances, counterfeit substances, and "analogs" of controlled substances, or substances intended for human consumption having a chemical structure or effect substantially similar to that of a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or II of the Act including those which contain opiates, opium derivatives (such as heroin), hallucinogenic substances (such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)), and substances having a depressant or stimulant effect on the central nervous system.

Element of Drug Distribution

An individual commits the crime of "controlled substance trafficking" when he or she knowingly brings or causes to be brought into Illinois a controlled or counterfeit substance for the purpose of manufacture or delivery, or with the intent to manufacture or deliver such substance, within the state or to any other state or country. To convict a defendant of controlled-substance trafficking, the prosecution must therefore prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant

  1. knowingly
  2. brought a controlled substance into the state
  3. for the purpose of delivery or with the intent to deliver it elsewhere.

Keep in mind, the defendant's knowledge of the trafficking must be proved both with respect to the bringing of the controlled or counterfeit substance into Illinois as well as the end-goal of its delivery within or outside of the state.

Illinois Drug Distribution Laws: An Overview

Specific details about drug distribution laws in Illinois, including charges and penalties, are listed in the following table. Remember, certain drug distribution charges can also be charged under federal law depending on the specific facts of the case.


Illinois Controlled Substances Act: §570/401-413

Sentences and Penalties

Penalties for controlled-substance possession, manufacturing and delivery offenses range in seriousness from a Class 3 felony on the "low" end to a Class X felony on the high end.

  • Class 3 felonies carry a minimum sentence of 2 to 5 years of imprisonment; thus, convicted drug traffickers would be subject to a minimum prison term of double that amount, or 4 to 10 years in prison.
  • Class X felonies, on the other hand, carry a minimum term of imprisonment of 6 to 30 years and a maximum term of 15 to 60 years, depending on the type and weight of the substance(s) in question.
  • In theory, then, a convicted drug trafficker could be sentenced to serve a maximum sentence of 30 to 120 years in prison, or "twice the maximum term."
  • In addition, persons found guilty of trafficking may be required to pay a fine in the minimum amount of up to $75,000 on the "low" end or up $1,000,000, which is twice the amount of a maximum fine for a Class X controlled-substance related felony.

Note: The law also punishes a person's knowing use of a "cellular radio telecommunication device in the furtherance of controlled substance trafficking" with a hefty fine of up to $100,000.

Possible Defenses

  • Lack of knowledge
  • Infancy (for persons under 13 years old)
  • Insanity
  • Duress or compulsion
  • Entrapment

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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Illinois Drug Distribution Laws: Related Resources

Facing Drug Charges? A Defense Attorney Can Help

Being charged with a drug distribution offense in Illinois is a very serious matter. While you may have several defenses available to you, such as possession for personal use instead of distribution, you’ll want to speak with a skilled attorney before making any decisions about your case. Start today by contacting an Illinois criminal defense lawyer who specializes in drug crimes.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex drug crimes usually require a lawyer
  • Experienced drug crime lawyers can seek to reduce or eliminate criminal penalties
  • Drug crime laws involve many specifics that can quickly change a case

Get tailored legal advice and ask a lawyer questions. Many Illinois attorneys offer free consultations for Drug Crime.


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