Heroin in Minnesota

Last spring the DEA issued a report indicating that heroin use is on the rise nationally. Minnesota has not been an exception to this trend. According to a January, 2014 Star Tribune article, Minneapolis has some of the cheapest, most pure heroin in the country. Law enforcement sources report that most of it comes from Mexico via I-35 or Chicago. Heroin is an opiate – derived from the poppy plant – and has high potential for abuse, addition, and overdose. Although heroin is classically seen as a drug of injection, modern forms of heroin can be snorted or smoked.

Recently much attention has been given to the increased use of opioid pain relievers, which can cause dependence and lead to the use and abuse of heroin. Specifically, individuals who are prescribed opioid pain relievers, including OxyContin and Opana, to name two, may become addicted. If they are unable to obtain the drugs by prescription, they may turn to the streets. What they quickly discover is that heroin is often more accessible and cheaper. Minnesota Public Radio recently undertook an in-depth look at the use and abuse of opioids, including this report on Why Minnesota has a Big Problem with Opioid Overdoses.

Under both state and federal law, heroin is a Schedule I controlled substance, which means that there is no accepted medical use, and it is not available by prescription.

Heroin Possession

Under Minnesota law, the unlawful possession or sale of any amount of heroin is a felony.

Fifth Degree Possession of Heroin

A conviction for simple possession of any amount of heroin carries a sentence of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. However, if the person has a prior controlled substance conviction, then there is a mandatory minimum sentence of 6 months in jail, a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

Fourth Degree Possession of Heroin With Intent to Sell

A conviction for possessing a mixture containing heroin with intent to sell it carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. If it is second or subsequent controlled substance conviction has a mandatory minimum sentence of one year, a maximum sentence of 30 years, and a fine of up to $100,000

Third Degree Possession of Heroin

The crime of third degree possession includes:

  • Possession of one or more mixtures containing heroin on one or more occasions within 90 days, when the mixtures have a total weight of 3 grams or more
  • Possession of heroin in a school zone, park zone, public housing zone, or drug treatment facility

A conviction for third degree possession carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If it is a second or subsequent controlled substance conviction, then there is a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison, a maximum sentence of 30 years, and a fine of up to $250,000

Second Degree Possession of Heroin

Possession of one or more mixtures containing heroin with a total weight of six grams or more carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. If it is a second or subsequent controlled substance conviction, it carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years, a maximum sentence of 40 years, and a fine of up to $500,000.

First Degree Possession of Heroin

A conviction for possessing one or more mixtures containing heroin with a total weight of 25 grams or more can have a sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000. If the person has a prior controlled substance conviction, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of four years, a maximum sentence of 40 years, and a fine of up to $1,000,000.

Heroin Sales

For purposes of its drug laws, Minnesota defines “sell” very broadly, to include:

  • sell
  • give away
  • barter
  • deliver
  • exchange
  • distribute or dispose of to another
  • manufacture
  • offer or agree to do any of the above
  • possess with intent to do any of the above
Third Degree Sale of Heroin

A conviction for the unlawful sale of a mixture containing heroin can carry a sentence of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000. If it is a second or subsequent controlled substance conviction, it has a mandatory minimum sentence of two years, a maximum sentence of 30 years, and a fine of up to $250,000.

Second Degree Sale of Heroin

The crime of second degree controlled substance sale includes:

  • Sale of one or more mixtures containing heroin within 90 days with a total weight of three grams or more
  • Sale of any amount of heroin to a person under the age of 18
  • Conspiring with or employing a person under the age of 18 to sell heroin
  • Selling heroin in a school zone, park zone, public housing zone, or drug treatment facility

A conviction for second degree sale of a controlled substance carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. If it is a second or subsequent controlled substance conviction, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of three years, a maximum sentence of 40 years, and a fine of up to $500,000.

First Degree Sale of Heroin

A conviction for the sale of one or more mixtures containing heroin within 90 days with a total weight of ten grams or more can have a sentence of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $1,000,000. If the person has a prior controlled substance conviction, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of four years, a maximum sentence of up to 40 years, and a fine of up to $1,000,000.

Weapons Enhancements in Possession and Sale Cases

Firearms: Minnesota law provides a three year mandatory minimum sentence for a felony drug conviction when “the defendant or an accomplice, at the time of the offense, had in possession or used, whether by brandishing, displaying, threatening with, or otherwise employing, a firearm.” For a second or subsequent offense, the mandatory minimum increases to five years.

Other Dangerous Weapons: Minnesota law provides a mandatory minimum sentence of a year and a day for a felony drug conviction in which “the defendant or an accomplice, at the time of the offense, used, whether by brandishing, displaying, threatening with, or otherwise employing, a dangerous weapon other than a firearm.” For a second or subsequent offense, the mandatory minimum increases to three years.

Third-Degree Murder – Heroin

With a rise in overdose deaths in recent years, there is some anecdotal evidence that Minnesota prosecutors are increasingly bringing homicide charges against individuals alleged to have provided or administered drugs which resulted in an a death.

Minnesota law provides: “Whoever, without intent to cause death, proximately causes the death of a human being by, directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing, or administering [heroin], is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $40,000, or both.”

Heroin DWI

Most people know that driving while under the influence of a controlled substance can result in an impaired driving conviction. What many people do not realize, is that the crime of impaired driving includes driving, operating, or being in physical control of a motor vehicle while one’s body contains “any amount of [heroin], or its metabolite.”

Federal Heroin Crimes

Federal authorities, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Attorney’s Office, often in partnership with local law enforcement and prosecutors, tend to focus their investigative and prosecutorial resources to target drug trafficking organizations. These investigations seek to reduce the prevalence and availability of illegal drugs by identifying, prosecuting, and imprisoning top-level individuals responsible for importing, manufacturing, transporting, and distributing drugs.

Federal prosecutions are typically charged as conspiracies, and often involve numerous defendants. While the goal may be to identify top and mid-level individuals, it is not unusual for low-level dealers, and even mere users, to find themselves charged in federal cases. Sometimes users become dealers, or become involved in sales or distribution to support their own habits.

Depending on the circumstances, a federal trafficking conviction can carry a lengthy sentence, including up to life in prison. Many federal heroin convictions have mandatory minimum sentences. Mandatory minimum sentences are typically five or ten years, but in some circumstances can be 20 years, 30 years, or even life in prison.

Defense Attorney for Heroin Cases

If you or someone you love is being investigated or prosecuted for a crime involving heroin, an experienced criminal defense attorney can be an enormous help. At F. Clayton Tyler, P.A., our experienced defense attorneys use our experience and credentials to obtain results for our clients. While our attorneys are willing to step in at most stages, the sooner we are hired, the sooner we can begin and the more options will be available to address both the legal and factual issues in the case. Contact us today for a free consultation about your case.

Our defense attorneys regularly appear in both state and federal courts around the Twin Cities, including Minneapolis, Edina, Minnetonka, and Brooklyn Center (Hennepin County); St. Paul and Maplewood (Ramsey County); Anoka (Anoka County); Stillwater (Washington County); Shakopee (Scott County); Chaska (Carver County); Hastings, West St. Paul, and Apple Valley (Dakota County).

We also defend drug cases across the state, and have handled cases in many Minnesota counties, including Sherburne County (Elk River), Wright County (Buffalo), Chisago County (Center City), Isanti County (Cambridge), Rice County (Faribault), Goodhue County (Red Wing), Stearns County (St. Cloud), Blue Earth County (Mankato), Olmsted County (Rochester), and St. Louis County (Duluth).

If you are facing a criminal charge, you need professional, personal representation. Our team of attorneys will offer you Straight Talk and Honest Answers about your case.

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Law Offices of F. Clayton Tyler | TriTech Office Center | 331 Second Avenue South, Suite 230 | Minneapolis, MN 55401

612.333.7309  |  1.888.333.7309