Last month, 34 people were arrested in what authorities are calling the largest and most complex drug sweep in Colorado history. The operation netted 273 pounds of heroin, 31 pounds of methamphetamine, and 25 pounds of cocaine.
The two-year operation was conducted by the DEA’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, and involved IRS agents and prosecutors from US Attorney John Walsh’s office.
The investigation targeted a family-run drug cartel that has been operating in and out of Mexico for an estimated decade. It began in 2013, when investigators discovered a drug operation growing opium poppies and managing heroin labs in Mexico. The cartel was sending mass quantities of brown heroin into Colorado, where it was sold on Denver’s 16th Street Mall and in City Park. According to officials, this type of heroin may be particularly dangerous because it does not have to be injected, making it more appealing to young users.
Although the leaders of the cartel have yet to be located, officials have arrested and charged suspects with complex money laundering and violations of the drug kingpin statute.
When discussing the drug bust with reporters from ABC 7, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman said, “Today’s bust of the largest international drug trafficking network in Colorado history serves as a warning to all that we will not sit back and let hard drugs overtake our State. Heroin use in Colorado has reached epidemic proportions, as witnessed by a thriving market for brown powder heroin and criminals willing to risk a lifetime in prison to profit from the demand for opioids. My office is committed to aggressively pursuing criminal enterprises that try to set up shop in Colorado.”
Heroin Use on the Rise in Colorado
Colorado’s crackdown on heroin trafficking comes in response to our state’s growing heroin problem. Heroin use in Colorado is skyrocketing, with the number of heroin overdose fatalities rising every year.
Experts attribute the rise of heroin use to what they are calling “the opioid epidemic.” As prescription painkillers like Percocet and OxyContin grow increasingly expensive and difficult to get, many addicts are resorting to fraud or turning to heroin, a cheaper opioid.
In response to the trend, law enforcement officials across the state are cracking down on all types of heroin-related crimes, from trafficking to possession. Heroin is considered to be a Schedule I drug in Colorado, so heroin crimes in our state are often are met with the toughest punishments.
Below, we’ve listed some of the most common heroin crimes and their penalties.
Heroin possession. In Colorado, possession of heroin is a Class 3 felony for the first offense. If you are found in possession of heroin, you may be penalized with up to 12 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines.
Heroin sale or manufacturing. The sale or manufacturing of heroin is a Class 3 felony in Colorado. Like heroin possession, this type of offense is punishable with lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines. The severity of the penalties are often determined by the circumstances; for instance, sale to a minor or within 1000 feet of a school will likely toughen the resulting sentence.
Heroin trafficking. Drug trafficking is one of the gravest type of drug felony crime, and may be penalized with up to lifetime in person. To determine the degree of a heroin trafficking crime and decide on sentencing, a judge will consider factors such as your criminal history, whether any one was killed or injured in relation to the trafficking crime, whether you crossed international borders, and whether you were carrying an illegal weapon.
Regardless of what type of heroin crime you have been charged with, you are facing some serious consequences to your freedom, finances, and future. As Colorado cracks down on heroin use, law enforcement agencies in our state treat heroin crimes with increasing seriousness, and state courts tend to handle these types of cases without mercy.
If you want to avoid incarceration, fines, and a lifelong criminal record, you will need the toughest defense possible. Consult with an aggressive drug crimes attorney with a track record of success, who can help you understand the charges you are facing.
Your lawyer should listen to your story with compassion, and explain your options in a clear, upfront manner. Together, you and your attorney can build a tough defense strategy by researching the circumstances of your case, gathering evidence, and collecting expert witnesses. With a tough drug crimes defense attorney on your side, you will be in the best position possible to have your charges reduced or dropped entirely.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.