The First Time Is Hardly Easy When Drug Charges Are Involved
All charges related to illegal drugs should be taken seriously, including drug charges for first-time offenders. The consequences of a conviction can follow you for years and even decades and limit job, educational, and other opportunities.
Facing drug crime charges in Colorado Springs can be a frightening experience, especially if it’s your first interaction with Colorado’s criminal justice system. First-time drug offenders can face severe penalties, including significant jail time for offenses involving large amounts of illicit substances, the sale and distribution of drugs, certain types of drugs, or if the offense involved any number of “aggravating circumstances.”
Levels Of Drug Charges For First-Time Drug Offenders In Colorado
Colorado made sweeping changes to its drug laws in 2013. Colorado law now divides drug-related offenses into two categories: Drug Misdemeanors (DM) and Drug Felonies (DF). The law further divides each of those categories into several “levels.” There are two levels of Drug Misdemeanors: DM1 and DM2, and four levels of Drug Felonies: DF1, DF2, DF3, and DF4.
Which category and level of charge you face for your first-time drug arrest matters because they determine the minimum and maximum penalties or sentences that could await you upon conviction.
In addition to the penalties that apply to each category and level, the specific facts of your case can cause an El Paso County judge to “aggravate” your sentence, opening up the possibility of more severe punishment. Additionally, “enhanced” penalties can apply to many convictions, such as selling drugs to minors.
The possible sentences faced by first-time drug offenders upon conviction are as follows:
- DM1: Between 6 and 18 months of imprisonment, and fines of between $500 and $5,000, or both.
- DM2: Up to one year in jail and a fine of $50 to $750, or both.
- DF1: Between 8 and 32 years of imprisonment, fines between $5,000 and $1 million, or both, and mandatory parole for three years.
- DF2: Between 4 and 8 years of imprisonment, fines of $3,000 to $750,000, or both, and mandatory two years of parole.
- Aggravated DF2: From 8 to 16 years’ imprisonment, a $3,000 to $750,000 fine, or both, and two years of mandatory parole.
- DF3: Between 2 and 4 years’ imprisonment, fines of between $2000 and $500,000, or both, and mandatory one year of parole.
- Aggravated DF3: Between 4 to 6 years’ imprisonment, a $2,000 to $500,000 fine, or both, plus a mandatory one year of parole.
- DF4: Between 6 months and one year in prison and/or $1,000 to $100,000 fine, and mandatory parole for one year.
- Aggravated DF4: From 1 to 2 years’ imprisonment, $1,000 to $100,000 fine, or both, plus mandatory parole for one year.
Drug Charges For First-Time Possession
On March 1, 2020, Colorado passed a new law that made first-time possession of four grams or less of most Schedule I and II drugs a level 1 drug misdemeanor instead of a felony. Schedule I drugs include common illegal substances such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and LSD. Schedule II drugs include most kinds of opiates, including fentanyl and oxycodone.
However, possession of the smallest amount of certain drugs remains a level 4 drug felony, even for first-time offenders. Specifically, if police arrest you for possessing any amount of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) or similar “date rape” drugs like “roofies,” you will face felony charges, no matter how much (or little) you have in your possession.
Unless you are prepared to accept the maximum penalty for drug charges for first-time offenders, you should speak with an experienced Colorado Springs drug crimes attorney. A skilled drug defense attorney can increase your odds of beating the charges or receiving a sentence that focuses on alternatives to jail or prison.
For example, some individuals charged for a first-time drug offense may be eligible for a diversion program instead of jail. Once the individual successfully completes the program, the prosecutor will either drop the charges or decline to file criminal charges at all. A typical diversion program will include some or all of the following:
- Drug and alcohol abuse classes;
- Treatment and counseling;
- Restitution payments;
- Community service;
- Not possessing any firearms or other weapons for the duration of the program; and
- A pledge to not commit any other criminal offenses (other than minor traffic violations).
Facing Drug Charges For the First Time?
When you face Colorado drug charges for the first time, you need a powerful ally and aggressive advocate who will protect your rights, secure your freedom, and vigorously defend you against the charges.