Understanding Michigan Drug Possession Laws

handcuffs with drugs on the table close-up, concept of law and drugs

In Michigan, it is not illegal to use drugs. Instead, the law makes it unlawful to possess them. Michigan has strict laws regarding possession of drugs. In many cases, drug possession is a felony, punishable by more than a year in prison and fines of more than $2,000.

If you are facing Michigan drug possession charges, you need a skilled, experienced, and tenacious drug possession lawyer on your side who will investigate the charges, help you evaluate your option, and mount an aggressive defense.

Michigan Classifies Drugs Based on the Accepted Medical Use and Likelihood of Abuse

Under Michigan law, it is illegal to “knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance.” Like most states, Michigan classifies drugs into five categories, or schedules, based on the likelihood of abuse and whether the drug has an accepted medical use. Michigan drug classification schedules are as follows:

  • Schedule I–Substances with no accepted medical use, that are unsafe, and hold a high potential for abuse. Heroin, LSD, marijuana, peyote, and ecstasy fall into this category.
  • Schedule II–Narcotics and stimulants that have a high potential for abuse and cause severe psychological or physical dependence. Examples include Dilaudid, methadone, Demerol, OxyContin, Percocet, morphine, opium, codeine, amphetamine (Dexedrine, Adderall), and methamphetamine
  • Schedule III–Drugs with less potential for abuse, but that can still lead to moderate or low physical dependence and high psychological dependence. These drugs include Vicodin, Tylenol/Codeine, Suboxone, ketamine, and anabolic steroids.
  • Schedule IV–Drugs with a lower potential for abuse than Schedule III drugs, such as Xanax, Soma, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, Versed, Restoril, and Halcion.
  • Schedule V–Drugs that contain limited quantities of narcotics, such as cough syrups containing codeine.

Penalties for a Drug Possession Conviction

Penalties for a drug possession conviction will vary based on the amount and type of drugs in your possession and whether you committed other crimes while in possession of drugs (such as if you were in possession of a weapon or possessed tools that could be used for distribution of drugs). Many drug possession cases involve relatively small quantities of drugs. Nonetheless, a conviction for drug possession, even for a small amount of drugs, can result in severe penalties, often including mandatory driver’s license suspension.

Possession of a Schedule I or II Controlled Substance

If you are found to be in possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance, you face the following penalties:

  • More than 1,000 grams–Life in prison and a fine of up to one million dollars.
  • Between 450 and 1,000 grams–Up to 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
  • Between 50 and 450 grams–Up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
  • Between 25 and 50 grams–Up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Possession of Ecstasy or Methamphetamine

Possession of any amount of ecstasy (MDMA or “Molly”) or methamphetamine carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Possession of Marijuana

Possession of marijuana has been legal in Michigan since December 2018. But there are limits. People age 21 or older can possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their homes and can possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana while traveling within the state of Michigan. Adults can grow up to 12 marijuana plants as long as they are not visible to the public.

Defending Against Charges of Drug Possession

Defending against a Michigan drug possession charge will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. It may hinge on the type and amount of drugs allegedly in your possession, what you knew at the time of your arrest, or how the police conducted the investigation.

Some defenses target the facts of the case, while others challenge procedural errors. Other times, your lawyer will raise affirmative defenses, where you introduce evidence to show that you were acting within the law or that the state does not have a valid case.

The Drugs Were Not Yours

To charge a person with drug possession, it is enough to show that you had access to or control over the drugs. But if other people had access to the drugs, you can claim the drugs were not yours.

This defense is most effective when you share a house with roommates or when drugs are found in a car with multiple occupants.

Unwitting Possession

If you claim unwitting possession, you acknowledge that you were in possession of drugs but claim you did not know you were carrying them. This defense may be available if you were carrying a bag or package for someone else and did not know its contents or if you were arrested while driving someone else’s car.

Unlawful Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unlawful searches and seizures. If the police did not have probable cause to suspect you committed a crime or exceeded the scope of their authority, for example, by searching an area that they should not have, we can ask to have the evidence excluded because of an illegal search and seizure.

Chain of Custody

To secure a conviction for drug possession, the prosecutor must prove that the substance presented at trial is the same substance that was taken from you at the scene of the alleged crime. If the drugs were handled improperly or records were not properly maintained, we can challenge the chain of custody, arguing that there were procedural errors and that the drugs presented at trial were not yours.

Crime Lab Analysis

At trial, the prosecutor must prove that the drugs you allegedly possessed were actually a controlled substance. Typically, this is accomplished by sending the drugs to a crime lab for analysis. By identifying errors or discrepancies in the lab analysis report, we can argue for a reduction in charges or dismissal of the case.

Contact a Drug Possession Lawyer at Elmen Legal

Elmen Legal defends people charged with drug possession. As a drug possession lawyer, I may be able to help you work through a diversion program that will result in the drug possession charges being dropped. In other cases, we will need to mount a vigorous defense against the drug possession charges.

Regardless of your circumstances, I will analyze the case against you, help you evaluate your options, and work to minimize the charges and penalties you may face.

To learn more, call (734) 707-8915 or contact Elmen Legal today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your situation.

Elmen Legal is based in Ann Arbor and proudly represents people throughout Michigan.