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Colorado Criminal Defense Blog

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Colorado has a reputation for legalizing certain amounts of some controlled substances. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s a free-for-all in the state when it comes to drug possession. In fact, there are some severe consequences to drug possession in Colorado.

Even though it is only a misdemeanor to possess four or fewer grams of some controlled substances in Colorado, it is still illegal to possess other controlled substances in certain quantities. Here’s what you need to know to help you navigate the laws in the state safely and without putting yourself at risk of a felony charge.

Possession of a Controlled Substance Defined

Under Colorado law, it is unlawful to possess a controlled substance without a valid prescription from a doctor. It applies to narcotics with the exception of marijuana. Possession is defined as having physical control over a substance.

There are three types of possession. They are:

  • Joint possession – This occurs when you share control with another person.
  • Actual possession – This occurs when you have physical possession of a drug, i.e. holding it in your hand.
  • Constructive possession – This occurs when you are in control of a drug but are not touching it, like keeping a controlled substance in a safe.

Controlled substances are defined as those that are regulated by the government. They are broken up into five classifications, also called schedules, based on how the drug’s level of addictiveness and if it has any accepted medical use.

Penalties for Possession of a Controlled Substance

The penalties under Colorado law for possession of a controlled substance depend on the type of drug in your possession and its drug schedule. For example, heroin or LSD are Schedule I controlled substances. They will carry harsher penalties if you are found in possession, as opposed to a prescription sleep aid such as Ambien, which is a Schedule IV drug.

Misdemeanor Possession

Misdemeanor possession is defined by possessing up to four grams of schedule I or II drugs and any amount of schedule III, IV, and V controlled substances. Penalties for this level of offense are as many as 18 months in prison and fines of as much as $5,000.

Felony Possession

Felony possession is defined as possessing more than four grams of a Schedule I or II drug as well as any amount of ketamine, Rohypnol, or bath salts. If you are found guilty of this level 4 drug felony, then you can face:

  • Up to one year in prison
  • One year of parole
  • Fines of as much as $100,000
  • A drug offender surcharge, which can be up to $4,500

Aggravated Felony Possession

Penalties for Drug Possession in Colorado

You might also be charged with aggravated felony possession in Colorado if you are caught in possession of a controlled substance while on probation, parole, in jail, or as an escaped prisoner. In this case, you can face as many as 24 months in prison.

Drug possession charges can land you in prison and make you responsible for some very steep fines. On top of that, you’ll then have a criminal record which to contend. This can impact many areas of life from finding work to a place to live. It can even impact whether you can get loans for school. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the nature of these charges and how to defend against them.

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 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state.  Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.

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