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Drug offenses near school zones lead to harsher penalties

On Behalf of | Apr 4, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Imagine this scenario: You’re running a quick errand near your neighborhood school when an officer pulls you over for a traffic stop. During the stop, the officer finds a small amount of marijuana in your vehicle. You expect just to get a citation since recreational cannabis is legal in Michigan for adults 21 and over.

But then the officer informs you that because you were within 1,000 feet of the school, you’re facing much more severe charges – a felony that could potentially land you in prison for years.

These situations are not uncommon under Michigan’s strict drug-free school zone laws. The state takes an uncompromising approach to any illegal drug activity occurring in proximity to schools, parks, and other areas where children gather. Even a minor possession offense can turn into a major felony case if it happens within one of these designated drug-free zones.

Drug-free zones, according to the law

According to Michigan law, enhanced penalties apply for certain drug offenses committed within 1,000 feet of a school, park, playground, court, or other designated “drug-free zone.”

The following are places designated by law as drug-free zones:

  • The area within 1,000 feet of any property comprising a public, private, denominational, or parochial school
  • The area within 1,000 feet of any library
  • The area within 1,000 feet of any playground, playing field, or property used for school-related purposes
  • The area within 1,000 feet of a public or private park
  • The area within 1,000 feet of a licensed childcare center or preschool

Essentially, if illegal drug activity occurs near places frequented by minors, harsher punishments await those convicted of drug offenses.

The enhanced penalties in drug-free zones

The penalties for drug crimes like possession, manufacture, or delivery become more severe when committed in these protected zones. These penalties include:

  • Possession with the intent to distribute offenses carry doubled prison terms and fines
  • Manufacturing or delivery crimes have doubled maximum prison sentences
  • Subsequent drug-free zone offenses result in further doubled penalties

For example, simple possession of less than 25 grams of a controlled substance normally carries up to four years in prison. But in a drug-free zone, that maximum is doubled to eight years.

The violations of Michigan’s drug-free zones carry stiff penalties and lasting consequences. If you face charges, it’s important to have a strong legal defense to avoid years of prison and a criminal record. A criminal defense attorney may be able to advise you on the legal defenses available to you.

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