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Battling heroin requires more than criminal charges

The heroin epidemic can't be ignored. Unfortunately, it is difficult to balance out the need to punish people for criminal acts related to this drug and the need to help people find the tools overcome the addiction. Illinois has taken a harsh stance against this drug.

Here are some points that everyone should know about heroin usage and the penalties that can come with a criminal conviction in Illinois:

Heroin usage can impact anyone

Heroin usage can impact anyone, from those in the inner city to people who live in the suburbs. Often, heroin isn't the first drug they try. Instead, there are thought to be three main gateways to heroin -- cocaine, poly drug usage and pills. This means that it can often be more difficult for a person on heroin to get off the drug because they have such a deep problem with the addiction. Plus, heroin is so addictive that breaking the addiction can take a lot of help.

Prison time is possible upon conviction

The laws in Illinois provide for prison sentences upon conviction for any charge related to heroin. All heroin charges are felonies, which means that you can be branded as a felon for life if you are convicted.

At a minimum, a person who is facing heroin charges is looking at a Class 4 felony. This is for possession of less than 15 grams of the drug. A conviction means a possible prison sentence of one to three years.

On the higher side of the punishments for this drug is the sale or trafficking of heroin. This is a Class X felony that comes with 15 to 60 years.

Other heroin charges have penalties between these two extremes. They are all Class 1 or Class X felonies, depending on the charge and the amount of heroin involved.

Drug courts provide an alternate sentence

Not everyone who is facing heroin charges is guaranteed a prison sentence. Illinois has drug courts that provide an alternate sentence possibility for people who have a problem with addiction. These programs provide court supervision during the prison term. Participants go through rehabilitation and have to meet specific milestones throughout the program. These include having to report to a community supervision officer and take random drug tests. Failing to comply with the program's guidelines can lead to further legal trouble.

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Battling heroin requires more than criminal charges | Jim Ryan & Associates