(Update: Effective January 1, 2018, the Illinois legislature reduced the distance required from the school to 500 feet. The amended law further requires that at the time of the violation, persons under 18 are present or reasonably expected to be present or that school is in session.)

Under Illinois law, the penalties are increased if you knowingly manufacture, deliver or possess with intent to deliver a controlled substance such as heroin or cocaine when you are within 1,000 feet of a school building. For example, a Class 1 felony can be upgraded to a Class X.

These penalties can be raised even if school is not in session, and no children are present. Now, a new Illinois Appellate case has held that a school is still a school under this law even if the building no longer operates as a school.

In People v Tolliver, the defendant argued that his drug charges should not be upgraded because the Chicago Public Schools had closed the school in question. The Court disagreed, stating that the building still had the identity of a school and would still draw neighborhood children to its premises.

The court considered the following factors: (i) ownership and maintenance by Chicago Public Schools, (ii) purpose, (iii) design, (iv) site characteristics (including school grounds), and (iv) its recognized place within the surrounding neighborhood. After weighing these factors, the court upheld defendant’s conviction of the aggravated offense.

If you are charged with a drug-related crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your case with anyone, especially not the police. Trying to talk your way out of a situation might end up giving the prosecution the evidence they need to convict you.

An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did the police have probable cause to stop you? Was the search that uncovered the drugs legal? If not, an attorney may have grounds to challenge your arrest and hopefully get the evidence against you suppressed.

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See our related school law blog: North Shore School Law. (Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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