Illinois residents may be interested in a report from the American Civil Liberties Union that examines how people charged with drug use and possession of small amounts of drugs are treated in the legal system. The report found that such people often end up serving long prison sentences. However, despite decades of harsh drug laws, drug use has not decreased. The ACLU says that lawmakers should decriminalize the use and possession of small amounts of drugs and focus more on education and harm reduction.

According to the report, a significant amount of resources are dedicated to detaining this population. The study found that four times as many people were taken into custody for possession or using drugs than for selling and that more people were detained for minor marijuana offenses than for robbery, rape, aggravated assault, non-negligent manslaughter and murder combined. When police have quotas to fill, minor drug offenses are easier to deal with. The report also found irregularities such as questionable techniques used in search and seizures, threats and more.

The systemic problems continue within the legal system. People may languish in jail because they cannot pay bail. Prosecutors, who want to avoid litigation, then put forth the harshest charges they can so that the person will accept a plea bargain. These plea deals often come with lengthy prison sentences anyway.

Being charged with drug possession can have devastating consequences if a conviction is obtained. Accordingly, people facing these charges might want to discuss their situation with an attorney. The attorney might take a look at the evidence gathering and the circumstances surrounding the search that led to the seizure of the drugs to see if the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated.