If you are in school, getting caught with illegal drugs can lead to your expulsion, and you could also be charged with a felony. The criminal penalties can be greater if you knowingly manufactured, delivered or possessed with intent to deliver a controlled substance such as heroin or cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school building.

This is true even if school was not in session and no children were in sight. Now, a new Illinois Appellate case has held that even a school that is no longer operating can be considered a school.

In People v Toliver, the defendant argued that his charges for unlawful possession of heroin with intent to deliver should not be upgraded because the Chicago Public Schools had closed the school in question. The Court disagreed. Even though the school was closed, the building still had the identity of a school and could still draw neighborhood children to its premises.

The court looked at the following factors: (i) ownership and maintaince by Chicago Public Schools, (ii) purpose, (iii) design, (iv) site characteristics (including school grounds), and (iv) its recognized place within the surrounding neighborhood. Based on these factors, you could be convicted of an aggravated offense.

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

If you are facing disciplinary proceedings at your school, an attorney can represent you in the hearing and present the evidence in your favor before the school. Parents often cannot properly evalute the documents or witnesses needed to best show their child’s good character. Generally, it is well worth having an objective professional to assist you given what is at stake.

In a criminal case, an attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did the police have probable cause to stop you? Was the search leading to 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 help negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own. Likewise, an attorney can attempt to present your situation to the school in its best light in hopes of getting a more lenient sanction.

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

(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.)