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Dealing and Selling Drugs in Minnesota

The latest penalties (revised in 2016) for selling controlled substances in Minnesota are severe.

The Crime:

Selling in the “first degree” means within a 90-day period, selling:

  • A combined weight of 10 grams or more of cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine.
  • A combined weight of 50 grams or more containing a narcotic drug other than cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine.
  • A combined weight of 50 kilograms of amphetamine, phencyclidine, or hallucinogen.
  • 200 or more dosage units of amphetamine, phencyclidine, or hallucinogen.
  • A combined weight of 50 kilograms of marijuana or Tetrahydrocannabinols.
  • A combined weight of 25 kilograms of marijuana or Tetrahydrocannabinols in a school zone, a park zone, a public housing zone, or a drug treatment facility.
  • Manufacturing any amount of methamphetamine.
  • when the seller or accomplice brandishes, displays or threatens with a gun.

Anyone convicted of first degree controlled dangerous substance (CDS) sales could receive up to 30 years with a four year minimum for a prior drug felony conviction plus a fine up to a million dollars.

Selling in the “second, third, fourth degree, or fifth degrees” has to do with graduated smaller amounts. Lesser degrees of violation mean shorter jail times and smaller financial penalties. The smallest penalty for selling in the fifth degree is imprisonment for not more than 5 years or fines of not more than $10,000 or both.

The Social Issue:

Heroin and methamphetamine continue to dominate the drug abuse landscape in Minnesota cities [Minneapolis/St.Paul Drug Abuse Trends April 2016.pdf]. Prosecution of drug sales is complex and expensive because the vast majority of it is based in organized crime. Independent “entrepreneurs” who are most easily prosecuted are a relatively small proportion. Most of the sales of the CDS in Minnesota cities is by Mexican drug trafficking organizations, as well as street gangs, and other criminal organizations. Drugs travel into the state  concealed in commercial trucks as well as private vehicles.

Illegal synthetic drugs are also sold online. Commercial CDS online operations account for a small percentage of CDS sales, but the online operations are growing nationally from an estimated $16 million dollars in sales to $170 million over just three years (2012 to 2015). The share of users who buy CDS online has more than doubled over two years. These online drug sales in Minnesota are part of “the dark web,” accessible through underground browsers like Tor. Minnesota is especially vulnerable to online drug sales because it is a state whose people are more connected to the internet than most states. Buyers and sellers connect through underground email providers like Sigaint.

Online drug sales are protected by layers of encryption. Payments are made in bitcoin which stay in escrow until drugs are packed in vacuum-sealed under high security, and shipped from a variety of postal addresses with printed labels. Smart buyers use the address of “an inattentive or absent neighbor” and never sign for the package.

The Defense:

Because of the social damage that drug abuse is causing in Minnesota, the police are aggressively cracking down on people accused of selling drugs where they can find them. Once a citizen is accused, prosecutors are very aggressive in their efforts to get convictions. Often the legal rights and protections for the accused are pushed aside. Yet the penalties are severe. Conviction can be a life-changer with long prison terms, crippling fines, and legal blockages to future career and education. Anyone accused of drug dealing crimes in Minnesota needs a strong and attentive defense.

  • If the police are careless and violate the defendant’s rights in the collection of evidence, the defense may be to have illegally obtained evidence kept from the trial. The fifth amendment to the constitution allows defendants the right not to testify against themselves. This includes being correctly informed of his or her rights under the law, and protection against coercion.
  • Good legal defense may bring special circumstances to bear in the determination of sentences. Drug courts combine criminal elements with treatment models since addiction and associated drug activities may criminal but under particular medical and social duress. Agreements between parties of the court may be important in emphasizing treatment over criminal punishment.

Rogosheske, Rogosheske & Atkins, PLLC has practiced law in Minnesota for over 60 years. Our experience in criminal and civil law throughout the state of Minnesota and Wisconsin can help. Please contact us to learn more.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this page does not constitute an attorney client relationship. Be sure to contact our law office to discuss your case with an attorney.