Attorney DeBruin represents clients from across lower Michigan.

Attorney DeBruin represents clients from across lower michigan.

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Drug-Free Zone Laws Increase Criminal Penalties in Michigan

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2017 | Drug Charge, Firm News, Legal Blog

Michigan takes drug-related crimes seriously no matter where they occur. However, prompted by the war on drugs, Michigan took an even tougher stance on drugs in and around schools. Under drug-free zone (DFZ) laws, you face an increased criminal penalty for selling drugs within a school, on school grounds, or within a certain number of feet from the school grounds.

If you are currently facing a charge of selling or attempting to sell drugs within a school zone, contact an experienced Lansing drug lawyer at DeBruin Law right away. A Michigan court decision in October 2016 limited the application of the drug-free zone laws, which may impact your case.

Call us today at (517) 324-4303.

Michigan’s Drug-Free Zone Laws

Under Michigan’s Public Health Code 333.7410(2), anyone 18 years or older who delivers a Schedule I or II controlled substance or other narcotic drug to another person on or within 1,000 feet of school property or a library shall be punished by a term of prison for at least two years or up to three times the original prison sentence under the law as well as a fine of not more than three times the original fine.

Under Section 7410(3), any person 18 years or older who possesses a Schedule I or II drug or other narcotics with the intent to deliver to another person on or within 1,000 feet of school property or library will be imprisoned between two years or two time the original sentence and fined up to three times the original fine for the offense.

What Counts as School Property or a Library?

Your case may hinge on whether you were truly on or within 1,000 feet of school property or a library. It is important to realize that these properties can include more than the main building. For instance, Michigan law defines school property as including any building, playing field, or property used for school purposes for kindergarten through 12 grade. This includes public, private, religious, parochial, and charter schools. It does not extend to colleges, universities, or adult education facilities. This definition means 1,000 feet from school property could be a considerably longer distance from the actual school building if there are outlying fields used for gym and sports.

Under the law, a library includes any public library established by the state of Michigan, a county, city, or town, or a school district. While school property does not extend to colleges, this law does look at libraries for community colleges, colleges, and universities. It also takes into account private libraries that are open to the public.

People v. English: A Limitation on the Drug-Free Zone Laws

A recent court case limits the reach of DFZ laws. Two individuals in Oakland County were charged with possessing drugs for delivery within 1,000 feet of a school. One of the individuals was discovered to have cocaine and marijuana at his home, which was within the drug-free zone. The other individual was found to have heroin within his car, also within the drug-free zone at the time of the arrest. At each of these individual’s trials, their attorneys asserted that prosecutors needed to prove that they intended to deliver the drugs to the school zone, not that they merely possessed the substances within the drug-free zone. Both trial courts agreed and dismissed the cases. The state appealed and these two cases were consolidated at the appeal court level.

On appeal, the Michigan court found that Statute 333.7410(3), under which the defendants were charged, was not ambiguous, and agreed with the trial courts’ rulings. Under the face of the law, the prosecutors are required to show that the defendants intended to deliver a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school.

Appeals Case Provides an Important Defense

It is rare for courts to limit the meaning and use of the DFZ laws. In the past, many individuals were charged with intent to deliver drugs simply based on possessing illegal substances or a certain quantity of a drug within a specific area. However, this Michigan Court of Appeals found that possession within the drug-free zone is not enough to prove the intention to deliver the drugs to another within that zone.

Now, when you face these charges, it will matter whether or not you intended to deliver drugs to a school or library or within 1,000 feet of a school or library. If you were not delivering drugs or had no intention of doing so in or near a school, then you have a greater defense against this sentence enhancement. If you have solid evidence against this offense, your skilled criminal defense lawyer may be able to have the enhancement removed or have your charges reduced to possession of the drug.

Contact a Lansing Drug Lawyer for Help

If you have been charged with possessing or intending to deliver drugs within a drug-free zone, contact Lansing criminal defense lawyer Tiffany DeBruin of DeBruin Law right away. She has years of experience helping individuals charged with drug offenses have the charges reduced, prove their innocence, or minimize the consequences of conviction. Her main priorities are to protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.

Contact DeBruin Law today online or at (517) 324-4303 to schedule a consultation.

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