Opioid use, abuse, and addiction are currently at an all-time high.
To really put things in perspective: overdosing on drugs is the leading cause of accidental death here in the United States. Where does opioid addiction fit into that? It is responsible for nearly half of these deaths. In raw numbers, of the 52,404 fatal drug overdoses in 2015, 12,990 deaths are related to heroin, and 20,101 are related to prescription pain relievers.
Here in Colorado, the total of all opiate deaths actually fell six percent from 472 deaths in 2015 to only 442 in 2016. This marked the first time since around 2000 that opiate deaths decreased. That sounds like great news, right?
The shocker in this decrease, though, is that heroin overdose deaths have actually increased by 23 percent – from 160 deaths to 197 deaths.
It’s for this reason that more than 135 law enforcement agencies across our state are now carrying an antidote known as Narcan or naloxone to save people who are in the throes of an opiate overdose. Naloxone works by blocking opiates from brain receptors for up to 90 minutes. After that, the user will lapse into withdrawal.
Authorities in Eagle County recently used naloxone at a home where two men were found dead and a third ended up hospitalized.
Eagle County Sherriff James van Beek said, “It’s here, carfentanyl and other dangerous opioids are here. Maybe not in the amounts it is in other places around the state and country, but it’s here, and we need to be trained and prepared.”
An opioid overdose can be deadly, but the drugs can cause problems for you in other ways as well. Namely, being in possession of, selling, or trafficking opioids is considered a crime here in Colorado.
Let’s look at the law and the penalties associated with opioid drug crimes in the event that you’re ever charged.
Opiates and the Law in Colorado
In our state, we classify controlled substances into different schedules based on their potential for abuse and medical use.
Heroin and synthetic opiates are Schedule I drugs – high abuse potential and no medical use – whereas opium and its derivatives are Schedule II drugs – high abuse potential with psychological and physical dependence, but with an accepted medical use.
Under our drug possession laws, any amount of Schedule I or II drugs – even if it’s part of a mixture – is a Class 4 drug felony. Class 4 felonies are punishable by two to six years in prison with fines from $2,000 to $500,000.
Using heroin, opioids, and other illegal drugs is also against the law. Anyone who uses a controlled substance, except when given by a doctor or legally prescribed, commits a class 2 drug misdemeanor, punishable by three months to one year in jail and fines between $250-$1,000.
Moreover, it is unlawful for anyone to knowingly “manufacture, dispense, sell, or distribute, or to possess with intent to manufacture, dispense, sell, or distribute, a controlled substance.” Depending on the amount in question, the penalties can be quite severe:
- More than 112 grams: Class 1 drug felony punishable by 8-32 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.
- 14-112 grams: Class 2 drug felony, punishable by 4-8 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines.
- Under 14 grams: class 3 drug felony punishable by 2-4 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.
As you can see, heroin and other opioid possession, use, and distribution are serious crimes with life-changing penalties. If you’re facing opiate charges, reach out to an experienced Colorado drug attorney who can help you fight for your rights.
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.