Possession of a Controlled Substance in Illinois

Learn how Illinois classifies and penalizes drug possession crimes.

By , Attorney
Updated September 29, 2021

Possession of illegal drugs in Illinois can mean jail or prison time, depending on the amount possessed, the type of drug, and a person's criminal record. All states regulate and control the possession of drugs or controlled substances, though each differs in its exact definition and the penalties for their possession. Illinois considers not only well-known drugs like LSD, heroin, and cocaine to be controlled substances, but also the compounds used to manufacture them.

Some drugs, like codeine (a common painkiller), can be possessed legally so long as the holder has a valid prescription. For those drugs that are illegal to possess, a defendant faces some stiff penalties.

How Illinois Classifies Controlled Substances

Illinois divides controlled substances into five "schedules" based on factors such as their potential for abuse, and whether they are approved for legitimate medical use. Schedule I drugs have the highest potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, while Schedule V drugs have the lowest abuse potential and a currently accepted medical use. Examples of substances listed in each schedule include:

  • Schedule I drugs: opiates, certain opium derivatives, and hallucinogenic substances
  • Schedule II drugs: coca leaves, oxycodone, codeine, and methamphetamine
  • Schedule III drugs: buprenorphine, some steroids, and ketamine
  • Schedule IV drugs: alprazolam, diazepam, and tramadol
  • Schedule V drugs: medicines that have very small amounts of specified narcotic drugs

To understand the charges and penalties you might face, look at the charging document in your case (usually called a complaint, information, or indictment). Identify the name of the drugs specified in the document and consult the schedules explained above. Then read below to learn about possible charges and sentences. The statute that explains what drug fits into each schedule is Illinois Compiled Statutes chapter 720, section 570, article II.

This article concerns the unlawful possession of controlled substances. Separate penalties apply to the sale of, possession with intent to sell, and manufacturing of controlled substances. For information, see Illinois Sale of Controlled Substance Laws. Illinois law regulates marijuana separately. You can find more information in our article on Marijuana Laws in Illinois.

How Illinois Classifies Drug Possession Crimes

Illinois divides felonies into five classes: X, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Drug possession crimes can be of any class other than Class X. Class 1 felony possessions are the most serious and receive the harshest penalties. Misdemeanors are divided into three classes: Class A, B, and C. Class C misdemeanors are the least serious drug possession crimes. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5 (2019).)

Some states primarily classify drug crimes according to drug schedules. Illinois takes a mixed approach and classifies some drug crimes by specific types of drugs and others by schedule. For this reason, this article is organized by offense level.

Class 1 Felony Drug Possession

Class 1 felony possession is the most serious of the possession felonies.

Heroin, Cocaine, Morphine, LSD, and Hallucinogenic Substances

Penalties for possession of heroin, cocaine, morphine, LSD, and specified hallucinogenic substances depend on the amount of the substance involved in the crime:

  • 15 to 99 grams: Punishable by incarceration of four to 15 years.
  • 100 to 399 grams: Punishable by incarceration of six to 30 years.
  • 400 to 899 grams: Punishable by incarceration of six to 40 years.
  • 900 or more grams: Punishable by incarceration of ten to 50 years.

If a possession crime involves LSD or other hallucinogenic substance (like Molly or Ecstacy) sold in object form (such as blotter paper, dots, pills, or capsules), penalties depend on the number of objects or doses involved.

  • 15 to 199 objects: Punishable by incarceration of four to 15 years.
  • 200 to 599 objects: Punishable by incarceration of six to 30 years.
  • 600 to 1499 objects: Punishable by incarceration of eight to 40 years.
  • 1500 or more objects: Punishable by incarceration of ten to 50 years.

In addition to the periods of incarceration listed above, a defendant convicted of a crime involving 100 grams or more may be fined an additional $200,000 or the street value of the drug, whichever is greater.

Peyote, Barbituric Acid, and Amphetamine

The possession of any substance that contains 200 or more grams of peyote, barbituric acid (including its salts, isomers, and salts of isomers), or amphetamine is punishable by incarceration of four to 15 years and a fine of up to $200,000.

Pentazocine, Methaqualone, Ketamine, and PCP

The possession of 30 grams or more of pentazocine, methaqualone, ketamine, or PCP is punishable by incarceration of four to 15 years and a fine of up to $25,000.

Other Schedule I or II Narcotics

The possession of 200 grams or more of Schedule I or II narcotics (other than those discussed above) is a Class 1 felony, punishable by incarceration of four to 15 years and a fine of up to $200,000.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 570/402; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-3, -50 (2019).)

Class 4 Felony Drug Possession

Possession of any other amount of a Schedule I or II narcotic (other than those discussed above) is a Class 4 felony, punishable by incarceration of one to three years and a fine of up to $25,000.

Illegal possession of Schedule III, IV, or V drug is a Class 4 felony punishable by incarceration of one to three years and a fine of up to $25,000.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 570/402, 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/5-4.5-45, -50 (2019).)

Misdemeanor Drug Possession

A first conviction for the possession of an anabolic steroid is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by incarceration of up to 30 days and a fine of up to $1,500. A second offense under this section that occurs within two years of the first conviction is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months' incarceration and a $1,500 fine.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 570/402; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/5-4.5-60, -65 (2019).)

Enhanced Penalties for Drug Possession Crimes

Illinois law imposes additional penalties for repeat offenses.

Repeat offenses. The court may double penalties for a repeat conviction under the Controlled Substances Act.

Mandatory minimum sentences. If you are convicted of a repeat Class 1 felony within 10 years, the court must impose the minimum period of incarceration allowed for that crime and cannot order conditional discharge, probation, or periodic imprisonment (also called "weekend" imprisonment).

Unauthorized prescription. Possession of an unauthorized prescription form is a Class 4 felony for a first offense. Subsequent offenses can be punished by a Class 3 felony.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 570/406.2, -408; 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-5-3 (2019).)

Talk to an Attorney

The possession of controlled substances is punishable by long periods of incarceration and steep fines depending on the type and amount of drug involved in the crime. If you have prior possession convictions, you may face enhanced penalties. You should contact an attorney who specializes in drug crimes to understand the charges you face, any possible defenses or options, and the possible outcomes of your case.

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