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All Forms of Synthetic Cannabis May Soon Be Illegal in IllinoisFour people in Illinois have died and several others have been hospitalized in recent weeks due to adverse reactions after consuming synthetic cannabis. The substance, branded with names such as Spice and K2, caused internal bleeding in some of the people who used it, which police suspect was because it contained rat poison. In response, the Illinois Senate quickly approved a bill that would make all forms of synthetic cannabis illegal. The Illinois House of Representatives will now take up the bill. Lawmakers hope the legislation will close a loophole that has allowed synthetic cannabis to be sold in convenience stores.

What Is Synthetic Cannabis?

Synthetic cannabis is a plant that has been sprayed with an artificial cannabinoid meant to reproduce the effect of THC in cannabis. The product can come in solid or liquid form for the purpose of being smoked. Marijuana users are attracted to the product because it:

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Drug-Induced Homicide Conflicts with Good Samaritan LawIllinois created its drug-induced homicide law in 1989 as a way to prosecute people who supply drugs that lead to a user’s death. The law was rarely enforced until the recent increase of heroin-related overdoses. Advocates for the law believe that homicide charges against drug dealers may persuade them to give up information on their suppliers, in exchange for a reduced sentence. However, critics point out flaws in how the law works in practice:

  • Many of those punished are not sellers but users who shared the drug with a friend;
  • Proving the charge can be difficult and time consuming;
  • Drug dealers may not know the drug contained additives, such as fentanyl, that often cause the fatal reaction; and
  • Prosecuting sellers does not decrease the demand for the drugs that is driving use.

One of the most harmful effects of the drug-induced homicide law is how it conflicts with Illinois’ good samaritan law, which is meant to encourage life-saving actions in overdose cases.

Good Samaritan Overdose Act

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Probation for First-Time Felony Drug PossessionIllinois defendants suspected of possessing illegal drugs can face felony charges, even if it is a first offense. In Illinois, it is a felony to possess at least:

  • 15 grams of cocaine, heroin, LSD or morphine;
  • 30 grams of ketamine, methaqualone, pentazocine or phencyclidine; or
  • 200 grams of amphetamines, barbituric acid or peyote.

The lowest level felony charge for possession of these drugs is class 1, which may result in 4 to 15 years in prison and as much as $25,000 in fines. However, Illinois offers a special form of probation for first-time felony drug offenders. With this probation, you can avoid the harshest penalties of a felony drug conviction.

410 Probation

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Illinois trying to change civil asset forfeiture lawWhen someone is charged with a criminal offense in Illinois, the law in some cases allows police to use civil asset forfeiture to seize property they believe was part of the crime. Civil rights advocacy groups malign this process because they say police departments:

  • Have low standards for proving that the property forfeiture is justified; and
  • Have incentive to use forfeiture because they can generate revenue from the assets they keep.

Many states have changed their civil asset forfeiture laws in recent years. Now, Illinois legislators have proposed a bill that would create stricter requirements for the process and greater oversight of seized assets.

Current Law

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Illinois constructive possession, Crystal Lake Criminal Defense AttorneyThere is little confusion when a person is charged with a drug offense for possession or distribution when he or she is caught with the drugs in hand. However, confusion may arise as to how a person can be arrested and charged with possession when the drugs were found near the individual, in his or her house or car, or even when the person did not have any idea that the drugs were there. This charge can be sustained through what is legally known as constructive possession.

In order to get a conviction against a defendant for constructive possession of a controlled substance, such as cocaine, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant knew the drugs were in the location they were found, and that the defendant exercised immediate and exclusive control over the area where the contraband was found.

The knowledge element is usually proven by considering the defendant's actions as well as his or her words. Therefore, if the police see a person running from an area that is later found to contain drugs, this may be used as evidence that the person knew the drugs were there. However, running away alone is not conclusive evidence, and has to be considered in light of other factors.

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