Possession of paraphernalia in Illinois
April 25, 2016 2:38 PM   Subscribe

My friend was driving a borrowed truck last summer and was pulled over because the police suspected the contents of the pickup were stolen (they were not). Friend was carrying a couple of pills (controlled substance, for which she had a prescription, though not on her) - those were confiscated. The truck was impounded, later retrieved by the owner. So, it's 6 months later...

and friend is arrested for possession of the controlled substance (delay assumed due to the time it took to verify that the clearly marked pills were what they appeared to be) and a pipe, which she knew nothing about.

She's getting records from her doctor, which should make the first charge go away. Turns out the pipe was in the glove box, which she didn't even open when she had the truck.

Illinois law appears to specify that possession requires being aware of the contraband ("It is unlawful for any person knowingly to possess..."). So, presumably, she wouldn't be charged with possession of a pipe carried in a passenger's purse. Is this likely to apply to the contents of the glove box of the borrowed truck?

Will observe all common sense caveats re online legal advice. She'll hire a lawyer if/when necessary, just hoping to discover that this question has essentially already been answered in her favor.
posted by she's not there to Law & Government (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
She needs to contact a lawyer. Every situation is different. Lawyer.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:00 PM on April 25, 2016 [27 favorites]

If she's been arrested, she needs a lawyer. She needs to talk to no one else about it but her lawyer. There are many people that have been prosecuted with possession for things their friends have on them or were in their car.
posted by Candleman at 3:03 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Is she sure the possession of controlled substance charge is for the pills and not residue in the pipe? Either way: there's no if on the lawyer; get one ASAP.
posted by bluecore at 3:04 PM on April 25, 2016

She will indeed need a lawyer, and depending on the gravity of the charges it is possible that one will be provided by the state. But to answer the "is this likely to apply to the contents of the glove box" question: It is one thing to say that if she didn't know about the pipe, she isn't guilty; it something else entirely to actually convince the court or the jury that she didn't know about it. This is why a lawyer is important even if the law is clear.
posted by willbaude at 3:05 PM on April 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

Or in other words, whoever makes the call on whether to charge someone with a crime is also aware of the wording of the law and has decided to prosecute six months down the line. The prescription making the pills charge go away may be sufficient to cause them to drop all charges, but absolutely every subsequent interaction she has with the police or prosecution on the matter needs to be through a lawyer.
posted by Candleman at 3:09 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

She needs a lawyer, and you should ask to have this question deleted.
posted by sockermom at 3:10 PM on April 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

She's been arrested and charged with a crime. There is no "if" about getting a lawyer now. She, and everyone connected to her, should shut up and talk only to a lawyer about this.
posted by zachlipton at 3:15 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Why should the question be deleted? It isn't possible to identify the person/case based on what I've described here.

She will likely end up with a public defender. In the meantime, she's seeking peace of mind. I was hoping that someone might know how this is usually treated in Illinois.
posted by she's not there at 3:16 PM on April 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

Lawyer, NOW not later! She wants peace of mind? The only folks who can give her that are lawyers.
posted by easily confused at 3:22 PM on April 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

She can only get peace of mind from her lawyer and no one else. In theory possession of paraphernalia must be "knowing," and in theory "I didn't know it was there" should be a defense, but having worked in the criminal justice sphere a bit I can tell you that the state-of-mind elements of crimes (that it must be committed "intentionally," "knowingly," etc.) are frequently hand-waved away. A mental state being what it is, absent an admission the only proof available is circumstantial, and so people are willing to read in a lot from the surrounding circumstances. Circumstances that are interpreted through a lens of the observer's estimation of the defendant's credibility and character, which may be impaired by other evidence the prosecution brings up.

Your friend needs a lawyer immediately and in particular before any further contact with the police. They also need to shut up about this case with anyone other than that lawyer (including you).
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 3:41 PM on April 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Trying to give your friend peace of mind over this is an extremely bad idea. It amounts to helping them fail. It is better if they remain uncomfortable with the very real possibility of going to jail for a crime they did not commit unless and until they are cleared.

Please stop helping your friend feel okay about this and like everything will be fine. That is a great way to make sure they fail to adequately defend themselves and actually end up convicted.

Tell them to lawyer up and fight it to the best of their ability and that you will "pray for them" or "have them in your thoughts" or whatever. But stop helping them feel okay about this and not stress about this.
posted by Michele in California at 3:57 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

You are looking for this page on the wiki. Note the sections about low-cost services if they are relevant.
posted by nat at 4:46 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've been through something sort of similar but in Georgia, where I live. I asked for advice here too and people got really upset and did the "omg delete this question" thing. In my experience, law enforcement couldn't give less of a shit. I don't think they're trawling the internet looking for your friend to admit wrongdoing or something, as nice as it would be to imagine cops working that hard. Check Avvo.com for better advice than you're getting here, and lawyer recommendations. Your friend really will need one, as much as that sucks. I'm sorry this happened. The law can be really dumb.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:53 PM on April 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

No matter how anonymous you think you are on the Internet, you are not. Better safe than sorry is why I recommended asking to have this question removed.
posted by sockermom at 5:18 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

In my experience, law enforcement couldn't give less of a shit. I don't think they're trawling the internet looking for your friend to admit wrongdoing or something, as nice as it would be to imagine cops working that hard.

In your case, the arrest wasn't part of a larger investigation, and though it doesn't SEEM so, this one could be. In those cases, the cops or other agencies can indeed work very hard.
posted by destructive cactus at 5:26 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

She needs a lawyer as soon as possible, and she needs to stop talking to anyone about any of this until she gets one. She certainly should not be talking to you about it. Anyone she talks to--friends, family whoever--can be forced under threat of contempt of court to testify against her. Only her lawyer (and maybe a few other exceptions, whom her lawyer can tell her about, but which almost certainly does not include friends who post about her on the internet) give her advice. But by continuing to talk to her about it, even if it's to try to reassure her, you are not making things any better, and you may be making things much, much worse. The best (and really only) thing you can do to make things better for her is to assist her in getting a highly qualified and experience criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

IAAL, IAACriminalDefenseL, IANY/herL, TINLA
posted by decathecting at 6:02 PM on April 25, 2016 [12 favorites]

This isn't the time for peace of mind, it's the time to fight for survival from being unjustly attacked by the system. Peace of mind can come after they beat the rap.
posted by rhizome at 6:58 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

the arrest wasn't part of a larger investigation, and though it doesn't SEEM so, this one could be.

I will just say that if multiple people get searched for drugs on flimsy excuses by the police, it's definitely time to consider whether a mutual acquaintance(s) is being targeted and the police are trying to get the small fish to flip on someone.
posted by Candleman at 7:03 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

You also won't be able to get piece of mind. Likely outcomes are hard to predict, even for seasoned defense attorneys.

Among other things, it depends on the county (sometimes which city in the county), which I did not see in the question. The personal characteristics of your friend matter; details of the traffic stop (including which cops are involved) will affect how (or even if) the state's attorney decides to pursue the case. The judge could toss the case, too, if the state's attorney has charged in a manner inconsistent with lab reports (which they might not know until you get to court).

Really, I know it's scary and some vague idea of what to expect would be a great help, but Ask.Me cannot give that to you. There are just too many variables and only an attorney, in the county, who has heard the story from your friend (or, preferably, from the state's attorney) can adequately assess likely outcomes.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:07 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Since I posted this, I've learned that my question about whether or not the pipe she wasn't aware of in the glove box matters depends mostly upon the local prosecutor, who will weigh friend's history (no priors) when making a decision.

Possession of a pipe is a Class A misdemeanor and not something that's going to attract a lot of attention in the relevant county. Perhaps this info might be helpful to others in similar situations.

Re advice about "get a lawyer", as I mentioned, her lawyer will be a public defender, whom she can't consult with until assigned, or some free legal aid, should that exists. (Thanks, nat, for the link.) She cannot call a lawyer right now just because she's been arrested. Lawyers cost money that some people simply do not have.
posted by she's not there at 8:17 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lawyers cost money that some people simply do not have.

How many of her friends and family know about her arrest, and do any of them have money? If they do, maybe try setting up something on GoFundMe.com?
posted by Jacqueline at 8:34 PM on April 25, 2016

Consultations are typically free, where you tell them what's going on and they use their knowledge of local practices to tell you about ways forward. You can probably do it all over the phone, just start calling out of the Yellow Pages or Yelp or Avvo or whatever. Call a bunch of them.
posted by rhizome at 10:19 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Pretty sure a public defender wont be an option for a class a misdemeanor. Plan accordingly.
posted by lester at 4:10 AM on April 26, 2016

Pretty sure a public defender wont be an option for a class a misdemeanor.

This may not be accurate. Cook County, for example, does represent people on misdemeanors, and represents folks from their first court appearances. She should be able to meet with a lawyer very soon.

Unless she can raise a lot of money, it's really not worth it to hire someone. She needs to be her own best advocate, which means: (1) not discussing her case with anyone who is not her lawyer but then making sure to give the lawyer all the pertinent facts so he/she can be her very best advocate; (2) asking her lawyer questions about the process and expected outcomes (including whether if the truck belonged to someone else that is sufficient to get the case dismissed); (3) being patient and not hurrying into a bad outcome just to get things over with.

Just because the pipe was in the glove box does not prevent her from knowing it was there -- accordingly, a district attorney can charge her with that. It does not mean they can prove knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt. We don't have enough facts to analyze that though.

Though this is just logistical advice, I am a public defender.
posted by *s at 6:55 AM on April 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

What I was trying to say earlier, which I think I said really badly, is that feelings come from somewhere and helping someone stop feeling concerned by massaging their emotions when they really should be concerned is not a good thing. Helping them feel better by helping them solve the problem is a much better thing.

I get that folks have no money. But, while homeless, I talked to a lawyer for free. So, the best thing you can do is try to help your friend a) find counsel, in spite of their financial situation and b) mount the best defense possible.

That doesn't guarantee that everything will be okay, but that is a much better way to help someone's emotional state when they are in a shitty situation then trying to assure them everything will be okay. Try to help make the outcome okay, to the best of your ability. Then whatever peace of mind you have helped them achieve won't be shattered when reality intrudes.

Thank you for being loyal to and supportive of your friend.

posted by Michele in California at 12:52 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Going into debt for legal help is way better than the alternative!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:20 AM on May 21, 2016

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