Table of Contents:
What, How Much, and Your Intent with the Drugs You Possess Will Determine How Harsh Your Sentence Is
If you are charged with drug possession in Colorado, your fate no longer lies in your hands. Instead, it lies in the hands of the El Paso County prosecutors who want to convict you, the criminal defense attorney you hired to keep that from happening, and the judge or jury who will ultimately determine your guilt or innocence.
But the time between when a Colorado Springs police officer reads your Miranda rights and the conclusion of your case can be lengthy, scary, and confusing. Knowing what to expect from your ordeal with Colorado’s criminal justice system after you’ve been charged with drug possession can help clear up some of that uncertainty and confusion, even if you may not know how that ordeal will end.
What You’ll Learn in This Post
- Despite cannabis legalization and the liberalization of some other drug laws, possession of certain types and quantities of drugs is still a crime in Colorado that can come with severe consequences.
- Prosecutors can charge drug possession as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the amount of drugs you had, the kind of drugs you had, and your previous history of drug-related convictions.
- As harsh as the penalties for drug possession may be, they become even worse if a judge or jury finds you guilty of possession with the intent to distribute or sell those drugs.
This blog post won’t be able to tell you exactly what will happen to you if you are charged with drug possession because not all drug possession charges are created equal. The charges you face, and the potential consequences that await you upon conviction depend on many factors, including:
- Which drugs prosecutors charge you with possessing.
- The quantity of drugs prosecutors charge you with possessing.
- Your intent when possessing the drugs (i.e., whether you intended to distribute them).
- Any previous convictions for drug crimes.
The specifics of your case aside, here is what you can generally expect when facing different types of drug possession charges in Colorado.
Possession of Small Amounts Of Drugs
To reduce incarceration rates, Colorado changed its drug laws in 2020 to make possession of four grams or less of most Schedule I and Schedule II controlled substances a level 1 misdemeanor (rather than a felony).
What drugs are classified as Schedule I drugs? The list includes common illegal narcotics such as heroin, cocaine, LSD, and ecstasy. Most opiates, including fentanyl, are listed on Schedule II.
However, being charged with drug possession of even the tiniest amount of certain drugs remains a level 4 felony offense. Specifically, it is a felony to possess any amount of “date rape” drugs such as gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) or similar “date rape” drugs.
Additionally, a fourth or subsequent charge for having four grams or less of a Schedule I or Schedule II drug – or any quantity of a substance listed on Schedule III, IV, or V – is a level 4 drug felony.
What About Pot?
Possession of small amounts of cannabis is no longer illegal in Colorado, the key word being “small.” You can still face level 1 misdemeanor charges for possessing over six ounces of marijuana or over three ounces of marijuana concentrate. Having three ounces or less of marijuana concentrate is a level 2 drug misdemeanor.
But if you possess two ounces or less of marijuana, the 2020 law clarifies that police cannot arrest you, and you cannot be charged with drug possession.
Potential Consequences of a Conviction For Misdemeanor Drug Possession
While misdemeanors are indeed less “serious” crimes than felonies, that doesn’t mean that you won’t face severe penalties upon conviction.
Suppose you are charged with drug possession as a level 1 misdemeanor. In that case, conviction can result in up to 180 days in county jail, or two years probation, with up to 180 days of jailtime as a condition of probation or for a violation of existing probationary terms. A third or subsequent offense can lead to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
If you are found guilty of level 2 drug misdemeanor, you can expect to spend up to 120 days of incarceration or be placed on probation for one year. Additionally, as condition of probation, or the penalty for violating your probation, you may face 120 days in El Paso County jail. If convicted of a third or subsequent offense, you could receive up to 180 days in jail and up to $500 in fines.
While these penalties are harsh, they are not necessarily inevitable upon conviction. Some individuals charged with drug possession as a misdemeanor may be eligible for a diversion program as an alternative to a jail sentence. Upon the person’s successful completion of the program, the prosecutor will either dismiss the charges or refrain from filing charges at all. While the specific terms of every diversion agreement may differ, a typical program will include some or all of the following conditions and obligations:
- A drug and alcohol abuse assessment.
- Counseling and treatment.
- Payment of restitution.
- Community service.
- A promise refrain from committing any other crime ( not including minor traffic violations).
- Giving up the possession of any firearms or other weapons while in the diversion program.
Felony Drug Possession
As noted, possessing any amount GHB or related drugs is a level 4 drug felony, as is possession of more than four grams of any Schedule I or Schedule II drug.
If you are found guilty of a level 4 drug felony, you could be facing a sentence of six to 12 months of incarceration, one year of parole, fines of up to $100,000, and an additional drug offender surcharge of $1,500 to $4,500.
If you have an existing criminal record, what would otherwise be an arrest for felony drug possession can rise to the level of aggravated felony drug possession if, at the time of your arrest, you were:
- On parole for another felony offense.
- On probation or bond.
- Jailed as a convicted felon.
- An escaped prisoner for another felony.
Possession With Intent To Distribute
Being charged with drug possession when those drugs are for your personal use is one thing, but possessing drugs with the intent to distribute or sell them is quite another.
Colorado law defines possession with intent to distribute as the knowing possession of a drug with the intent to dispense, sell, distribute, or manufacture it. This offense is distinct from simple possession, as it implies an additional element of criminal intent to transfer the drugs to others.
The potential penalties for those charged with drug possession with intent to distribute in Colorado can be severe, with consequences ranging from fines and probation to lengthy prison sentences. The specific punishment depends on the schedule of the controlled substance involved, with Schedule I substances generally carrying harsher penalties than those in lower schedules.
Despite legalization, certain restrictions and regulations still apply to cases involving marijuana. Possession of large quantities exceeding legally established limits or cultivating marijuana without proper authorization may result in your being charged with drug possession with intent to distribute.
Charged With Drug Possession in Colorado? You Need An Aggressive and Experienced Drug Crimes Attorney
The legalization of recreational cannabis and the relaxing of some drug laws notwithstanding, drug possession in Colorado remains a serious crime, one that could put your freedom and future at risk and leave you burdened with a criminal record for years to come. Hiring an experienced Colorado Springs drug crime defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest is critical to retaining your freedom.
The Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyers at James Newby Law are powerful allies and fearless advocates who can protect your rights, secure your freedom, and aggressively defend you against any drug possession charges you face.
Schedule your free, confidential initial consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney today.