What Happens After an Arrest For Drug Possession in Colorado?

by | Dec 27, 2021 | Drug Crimes

Despite Changes In Colorado Law, An Arrest For Drug Possession Can Still Lead To Severe Consequences

What fate awaits you after an arrest for drug possession in Colorado depends on what you possessed, how much you possessed, and whether you possessed the wisdom to contact an experienced Colorado Springs drug crime defense attorney as soon as possible. Under Colorado’s controlled substances law, not all drugs are created equal, nor are all drug charges. This is especially true now after Colorado made significant changes to its drug possession laws as part of an effort to reduce incarceration rates in the state’s overcrowded prisons. If you were busted with drugs, here is what you can expect after an arrest for drug possession.

Possession of Small Amounts Of Most Drugs Are Now Misdemeanors

On March 1, 2020, Colorado passed a new law that made possession of four grams or less of most Schedule I and II drugs a level 1 misdemeanor offense instead of a felony.

Schedule I drugs include common illegal narcotics such as cocaine, heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Schedule II drugs include most opiates, including fentanyl. However, even the smallest amount of some drugs remain a level 4 felony. Specifically, if you are arrested for possession of any amount of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) or similar “date rape” drugs, you will face felony charges.

Additionally, a fourth or subsequent offense for possession of four grams or less of a schedule I or II drugs or any amount of a schedule III, IV, or V drug is a level 4 drug felony. Though possession of small amounts of marijuana is no longer illegal in Colorado, the passing of the 2020 law makes possession of more than six ounces of marijuana or more than three ounces of marijuana concentrate a level 1 drug misdemeanor.

Possessing three ounces or less of marijuana concentrate is a level 2 drug misdemeanor. The law clarifies that police cannot arrest a person for the petty offense of possession of not more than two ounces of pot.

Consequences Of A Misdemeanor Drug Conviction

But just because many possession charges are now misdemeanors doesn’t mean that there aren’t significant consequences if you’re convicted.

If convicted of a level 1 drug misdemeanor, you face the possibility of up to 180 days in the El Paso County Jail or two years probation, with up to 180 days behind bars as a condition of probation or for a violation of existing probationary terms. You may spend up to 364 days in jail for a third or subsequent offense.  Additionally, you may be subject to a maximum $1,000 fine.

If convicted of a level 2 drug misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to up to 120 days in El Paso County Jail or one year of probation, with up to 120 days of incarceration as a condition of probation or for a violation of probation. For a third or subsequent offense, you could be sentenced to up to 180 days in jail and pay a maximum $500 fine.

Related: Do I Need A Criminal Lawyer For A First-Time Misdemeanor?

That said, some individuals arrested for drug possession may be eligible for a diversion program as an alternative to jail. Upon successful completion,  El Paso County prosecutors will either dismiss the charges or not file criminal charges at all. While every diversion agreement is different, a typical program will include some or all of the following obligations and conditions:

  • A drug and alcohol abuse assessment;
  • Counseling and treatment;
  • Payment of restitution;
  • Community service;
  • A pledge to not commit any other crimes (other than minor traffic violations); and
  • Not possessing any firearms or other weapons while in the program.

Repercussions Of Felony Drug Possession Conviction

As noted, possessing any amount (GHB) or similar “date rape” drugs is a level 4 drug felony if convicted. The same goes for having more than four grams of Schedule I or Schedule II drugs. A conviction for a level 4 drug felony could lead to between six and 12 months in prison, one year of parole, fines of between $1,000 and  $100,000, and a drug offender surcharge of $1,500 to $4,500.

If you have a checkered criminal history, an arrest for felony drug possession can become an arrest for aggravated felony drug possession. You could be charged with aggravated felony drug possession, and face up to two years in prison if you had the kind or amount of drugs that would otherwise result in felony possession charges, and you were:

  • On parole for another felony;
  • On probation or bond;
  • Jailed as a convicted felon; or
  • An escaped prisoner for another felony.

Hire Experienced and Aggressive Drug Crime Defense in Colorado Springs

Notwithstanding the liberalization of some Colorado drug possession laws, an arrest for drug possession still puts you and your future at risk. A conviction not only could cost you your freedom and thousands of dollars in fines, but it can also leave you with a criminal record that will haunt you for years to come. That is why it is critical to speak to an experienced Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest for drug possession. Make sure that the defense attorney you hire is ready to aggressively advocate for you, protect your rights, secure your freedom, and vigorously defend you against any drug possession charge you face.

James Newby

James Newby

James Newby is a criminal defense attorney in Colorado Springs and the managing attorney of the criminal justice law firm James Newby Law. James got into law because of a deep-rooted passion for helping good people that may have made a poor choice that could have lasting consequences.