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Defending Against Drug Possession Charges in Colorado


Defending Against Drug Possession Charges in Colorado

Drug crimes can lead to severe consequences under Colorado law, even for first-time offenders. If you were charged with possessing an illicit or controlled substance in Denver or the surrounding area, securing a robust defense from a qualified attorney is paramount to avoiding the life-altering repercussions of a criminal conviction.

In this blog, we’ll review the criminal penalties for drug possession in Colorado and explore effective legal strategies to defend against a conviction.

What Constitutes Drug Possession under Colorado Law?

Under Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) § 18-18-403.5, it’s unlawful for an individual to knowingly possess a controlled substance. “Possession” is defined as having physical control over a drug. There are various types of drug possession in Colorado, including:

  • Actual possession: This involves making physical contact with the drug in your possession, such as holding it in your hand or storing it in your pocket.
  • Constructive possession: This occurs when an individual has control over a drug that is not on their person, but is still within their reach. For example, if you have an illicit substance stored in your car's trunk, this may constitute constructive possession charges.
  • Joint possession: This occurs when two or more individuals share control over a drug. For example, if you and a friend are both holding onto a bag of marijuana, both parties can face charges for joint drug possession.

Even if you didn’t physically possess the drug, you can still be charged with constructive or joint possession as long as there is evidence that you exercised control over the drugs.

Exceptions to Illegal Drug Possession

Under Colorado law, adults who are at least 21 years of age can lawfully possess psilocybin and up to 2 ounces of recreational marijuana. Additionally, individuals who have a valid medical marijuana card can possess up to 2 ounces of medicinal cannabis.

Colorado has also decriminalized the possession of small amounts of certain drugs for personal use. For example, under CRS § 18-18-404, possessing less than 4 grams of certain narcotics no longer warrants felony charges, but constitutes a petty offense. Examples include heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, and methamphetamines.

Keep in mind that these exceptions don’t apply to federal drug laws. Seeking sound counsel from an experienced drug possession defense lawyer is imperative to understand the type of drug charges you’re facing and determine an appropriate and effective defense strategy to employ on your behalf.

Types of Illegal Drugs in Colorado

Colorado law recognizes various categories of illicit drugs, including Schedule I to V controlled substances. Common examples of illegal drugs include:

  • Schedule I: As the most severe category, Schedule I drugs include substances that have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medicinal uses. Common examples include LSD, heroin, ecstasy (MDMA), methaqualone, opium derivatives, and peyote.
  • Schedule II: These drugs also have a high potential for abuse, but have some medicinal uses as well. Examples of Schedule II drugs include morphine, cocaine, methadone, amphetamines, oxycodone, fentanyl, and hydrocodone.
  • Schedule III: These drugs include substances with a lesser abuse potential and accepted medical uses. Examples include ketamine, anabolic steroids, codeine products with aspirin or acetaminophen, and barbiturates.
  • Schedule IV: These substances have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule III drugs and acceptable medical uses, but may lead to psychological and/or physical dependence. Examples include Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Ambien (zolpidem), and Ativan (lorazepam).
  • Schedule V: Schedule V drugs are considered the least dangerous with the lowest potential for abuse. Examples include certain prescription cough medicines containing codeine, Lyrica (pregabalin), Lomotil (diphenoxylate and atropine), and Motofen (diphenoxylate and atropine).

Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list and that Colorado law may classify other substances as illegal or controlled drugs. It’s best to consult with a knowledgeable drug possession defense attorney if you’re unsure about the specific category of drugs you’re facing charges for.

What Are the Penalties for a Drug Possession Conviction?

The exact penalties of a drug possession conviction will vary depending on the drug schedule, the substance type, the amount in your possession, and other key factors. Generally, a misdemeanor conviction is punishable by two years of probation or 6-18 months in jail (CRS § 18-18-403.5).

However, it’s important to understand that drug possession can be enhanced to felony charges under certain circumstances. Some examples include:

  • The possession of more than 4 grams of a Schedule I drug.
  • The possession of more than 4 grams of a Schedule II drug.
  • The possession of any amount of Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam), ketamine, or bath salts.
  • The possession of 1-4 grams of any substance that contains any amount of fentanyl, alfentanil, or benzimidazole opiate.

5 Legal Strategies to Defend Against Drug Possession

Defending against any drug crime can be daunting and overwhelming. If you were charged with drug possession, seeking experienced representation from a seasoned criminal defense attorney is essential to safeguard your life and liberty in Colorado. Your lawyer can carefully evaluate your case with a practiced legal eye to determine an effective legal strategy to employ in your defense.

Common defense strategies against drug possession include:

  1. You weren’t in control of the drugs. Being in proximity of illicit substances doesn’t make you guilty of a crime. The prosecution is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly had control over the illicit substance. If you were exposed to an unlawful substance in a shared space, such as your home or vehicle, our firm can aggressively defend your rights by challenging inadmissible evidence against you.
  2. You lacked knowledge or intent. To prove drug possession, prosecutors must demonstrate that you intentionally possessed the drugs in question. If there is reasonable doubt that you were unaware of the drug or had no intention to possess it, your lawyer can fight to get the charges dismissed.
  3. Your rights were violated during an unconstitutional search or seizure. In some instances, law enforcement may violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights by conducting an illegal search or seizure without a warrant. Your defense lawyer can help you challenge the legality of the unlawful search and fight to dismiss any inadmissible evidence from your case.
  4. You have a valid prescription. If you have a valid prescription for the drugs in question, your defense attorney can help you gather and present evidence of lawful possession to drop or reduce the charges against you.
  5. You were enticed by law enforcement. Entrapment occurs when law enforcement coerces or tricks normally law-abiding individuals into possessing drugs they otherwise would not have possessed. If you can prove that law enforcement’s actions amounted to entrapment, this can serve as a valid defense against drug possession charges.

Defending Your Rights in Denver Since 1997

If you’re facing criminal charges in Denver or the surrounding area, securing experienced representation from a skilled Colorado defense attorney is imperative to avoid the life-changing penalties of a criminal conviction. At Denver Family Lawyers, our firm has a longstanding reputation for aggressively defending clients against a wide range of criminal charges. From domestic violence allegations to DUI defense, our lawyers can leverage their in-depth understanding of criminal law to protect your hard-earned reputation and advocate for the second chance you deserve. If you were arrested for a drug crime, don’t risk the harsh repercussions of a criminal conviction by failing to secure a reliable defense! Turn to a firm with a proven track record of results to vigorously defend your rights.

Arrested for drug possession in Denver? Call (303) 225-3343 to schedule a consultation with our Denver attorneys.