Despite national perceptions, many Colorado drug laws have actually gotten more restrictive over the last few years, and we are seeing the effects of those changes here in the Denver area in a big way.
If you are facing drug trafficking charges, you probably have a million questions running through your mind. At our office, we’re constantly getting asked many of the same questions, so we thought we’d use this post to share them – as well as the answers.
If, after reading the below, your specific questions haven’t been answered or we’ve helped you think of new ones, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We know exactly how turbulent this situation can be, and we want to do whatever we can to help ease your mind and give you back some sense of control.
What Is “Drug Trafficking” in Colorado?
A: “Trafficking” refers to the act of moving large quantities of illicit drugs with the intent to distribute them. In Colorado, however, this definition is a bit broader. It includes manufacturing, dispensing, selling, or actually distributing a controlled substance, as well as the possession of one or more chemicals, supplies, and/or pieces of equipment associated with the manufacturing of a controlled substance.
What’s the Difference Between Trafficking and Possession?
A: The primary difference between the two is intent. If the suspect intended the illegal substance for personal use, it is mere possession, but if there is reason to believe the suspect intended to distribute it, possession charges become trafficking instead.
Is Trafficking a Felony or a Misdemeanor?
A: More often than not, if you have been charged with drug trafficking, you are facing felony charges. Drugs and certain chemicals used to make them are each classified into five schedules depending on factors such as medical application and potential for dependency. Trafficking is only considered a misdemeanor when the crime involves either a schedule V drug or the transfer (without actual sale) of schedule III or IV drugs in amounts of four grams or less.
Why am I Being Charged with a Federal Drug Trafficking Crime?
A: Technically, the federal government has jurisdiction over any criminal act that is covered under federal laws, and there is quite a bit of overlap between Colorado and federal drug laws. In other words, the feds can basically take over a trafficking case whenever they want.
In reality, though, the federal government tends to handle cases that involve specific scenarios. For example, the DEA is particularly interested in handling drug trafficking cases where a federal informant implicates you or when the crime involves crossing state lines.
When Is Trafficking Legally Grown Marijuana against the Law?
A: Because of the wide variation on marijuana legislation across the country at present, Colorado has clearly stated that once legally produced marijuana crosses states lines, it ceases to be a legal product. Also note that when trafficking involves multiple states, you are more likely going to capture federal interest, which can lead to far heftier penalties.
Am I Going Serve Time in Colorado Prison If I’m Convicted?
A: The short answer here: quite possibly… but not always.
Sweeping changes made to Colorado drug laws more than five years ago dictated minimum and maximum penalties for sentencing. Even the lowest charge level (DM1) carries a mandatory minimum of six months imprisonment and/or a $500 fine.
Factors a judge considers at sentencing are whether you are a lower-level or first-time offender, what type of drug you have been convicted of trafficking, and how you were involved in the crime.
Can I Avoid a Trafficking Conviction Altogether?
A: There are a number of reasons why trafficking charges don’t always stick. Some common defenses against them are search and seizure violations, lack of other compelling evidence, and lack of intent. Depending upon the specific circumstances surrounding your case, your drug crime defense attorney will be able to determine the best defense strategy for your charges.
I Heard My Charges Might Be “Wobbler-Eligible” – What Is a Wobbler and How Do I Know?
A: In special cases where Class Four felony charges apply, there may be an opportunity to have charges reduced to a misdemeanor. When this is an option, these crimes are considered “wobblers.”
When it comes to trafficking, there are really only a couple of scenarios in which the charges may be wobbler-eligible. Your attorney will be able to review the specific circumstances surrounding your case and advise whether you may be eligible for this charge reduction.
We understand facing drug trafficking charges can be an overwhelming affair. Rest assured, simply by doing your homework, you are already headed down the right path. Understanding the charges you face and having your questions answered by professionals is the first step to being able to defend yourself and get the best possible outcome.
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.