Even though certain drugs in Colorado are considered legal recreationally, such as marijuana, that doesn’t mean the state doesn’t prosecute drug crimes. In fact, in Colorado, it is still illegal to sell, possess, use, or manufacture many controlled substances.
Still, there are some circumstances under which a person who is found guilty of a drug crime for the first time can escape a jail sentence.
Here’s what you need to know about what constitutes a drug crime in Colorado and under what circumstances someone can face jail time for their first drug conviction.
Drug Crimes: Misdemeanor and Felony
The state of Colorado divides drug crimes into two categories: misdemeanor and felony. Each category is then broken down into other levels – misdemeanor drug crimes consist of two levels while felony drug crimes consist of four levels.
The level of crime with which a person is charged dictates the minimum and maximum penalty they may face if convicted, so it’s a very important distinction. Level one felonies are the most serious, while a level two drug misdemeanor is the least serious.
How a person is charged depends on:
- What types of controlled substances were involved
- If they were for personal use or for sale
- How much of the substance was found
- The level of danger presented by the controlled substance (as in what “schedule” it belongs to)
- If the defendant has a criminal history involving drug crimes
- If the defendant was on parole or probation at the time of the arrest
The Penalties for Drug Crimes
There is a possible sentence range you can face for drug crimes in Colorado. They include:
- Drug Misdemeanor Level One – As many as 18 months in jail and fines of as much as $5,000.
- Drug Misdemeanor Level Two – As much as one year in prison and fines of as much as $5,000.
- Drug Felony Level One – Up to 32 years behind bars and as much as $1 million in fines.
- Drug Felony Level Two – As many as eight years in prison and fines of as much as $750,000. If aggravating factors are involved, then the sentence can double.
- Drug Felony Level Three – Up to six years in prison and fines of as much as $500,000.
- Drug Felony Level Four – As much as one year in prison and fines of $100,000. If aggravated, up to two years behind bars.
Aggravating factors are left up to the judge to decide, but they often include circumstances like:
- Being on parole or probation when arrested
- You are on bond for another case when arrested
- Any other factor that the court thinks is appropriate
Do First-Time Offenders Go to Jail?
In most cases, illegally possessing a small amount of drugs and being charged for the first time will result in a misdemeanor drug charge. Those can still send a person to jail.
However, a skilled defense attorney may be able to arrange probation in lieu of a jail sentence for a first-time offender who has no prior criminal history.
It’s important to note that if dangerous drugs are involved or a person is caught selling or manufacturing them, then being a first-time offender doesn’t matter as much. Being charged with a felony drug crime beckons serious consequences, no matter your criminal history.
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.