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Colorado Criminal Defense Blog

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Drug trafficking is one of the most confusing legal concepts out there. As most people understand it, trafficking means moving something from one place to another illegally.


So why then were six men recently indicted for being involved in a drug trafficking ring after receiving heroin from outside of the state? Wouldn’t they have had to attempt to transport those drugs somewhere else for drug trafficking charges to apply?


Short answer: nope.


Why not? Two reasons:


  • What most people believe constitutes drug trafficking is based on is incomplete and largely comes from a misunderstanding about the word itself.
  • There are no actual “drug trafficking” statutes in Colorado, so when we hear that someone is facing drug trafficking charges, it technically means something else.


Understand those two things and you’ll know why it’s not only perfectly within the bounds of the law to accuse someone of being a drug trafficker for receiving large amounts of drugs, but fairly common.


What “Trafficking” Really Means under Colorado Law


First, the definition of the word. Simply put, “traffick” and “traffic” have little to do with each other. One is about moving from place to place. The other is, according to Merriam-Webster, “the act of buying or selling… illegal goods.”


Of course, that’s a dictionary. That’s not the statute. To be charged with a crime in Colorado, you must violate an actual statute.


Moreover, as mentioned above, Colorado has no drug trafficking statute on the books. So what does it mean when you hear that someone has been charged with trafficking as opposed to another drug crime?


The illegal acts typically associated with the trafficking of illegal substances fall under C.R.S. § 18-18-405, Unlawful distribution, manufacturing, dispensing, or sale. More specifically, the law says that it is illegal:


“…for any person knowingly to manufacture, dispense, sell, or distribute, or to possess with intent to manufacture, dispense, sell, or distribute, a controlled substance; or induce, attempt to induce, or conspire with one or more other persons, to manufacture, dispense, sell, distribute, or possess with intent to manufacture, dispense, sell, or distribute, a controlled substance; or possess one or more chemicals or supplies or equipment with intent to manufacture a controlled substance.”


In short, if you are in any way involved with making or selling a controlled substance – even if you haven’t actually done it yet but have been conspiring to and are getting the operation set up – you can be charged under the law.


That second part is where “receiving” enters into the picture as a potential way to get charged with trafficking. As the law lays out, possession with the intent to engage in any of those acts outlined above constitutes trafficking.


So, if you receive a large shipment of drugs from someone and law enforcement catches you with them, most likely you will be charged with a trafficking offense rather than mere possession.


Where is the line drawn? That depends on the drug in question.


Amounts (and Penalties) Associated with Colorado Drug Trafficking Charges


The amount of drugs you allegedly have in your possession matters in two ways under the trafficking laws of our state. First, it determines whether you will be up against a possession charge or a trafficking offense. Second, it determines the level of the offense itself.


Here’s how it breaks down:


Schedule I and II Drugs


14 grams and under – Level 3 Drug Felony

14-225 grams – Level 2 Drug Felony

Over 225 grams – Level 1 Drug Felony


Cathinones, Heroin, Katamine, and Meth


7g and under – Level 3 Drug Felony

7-112g – Level 2 Drug Felony

Over 112g – Level 1 Drug Felony




10g or under – Level 3 Drug Felony

10-50g – Level 2 Drug Felony

Over 50g – Level 1 Drug Felony


Schedule III and IV Drugs


Transfer (without sale) of 4g or under – Level 1 Drug Misdemeanor

Over 4g – Level 3 Drug Felony


Schedule V Drugs


Any amount – Level 1 Misdemeanor




Under 4 oz. (or under 2 oz. concentrate) – Level 1 Drug Misdemeanor

4-12 oz. (or 2-6 oz. concentrate) – Level 4 Drug Felony

12 oz.-5 lbs. (or 6 oz.-2.5 lbs. concentrate) – Level 3 Drug Felony

5-50 lbs. (or 2.5-25 lbs. concentrate) – Level 2 Drug Felony

Over 50 lbs. (or over 25 lbs. concentrate) – Level 1 Drug Felony


Colorado Drug Lawyer


Additionally, transferring any amount to someone underage qualifies as either a Level 2 or Level 1 Drug Felony.


Level 1 Drug Misdemeanors come with the possibility of 6-18 months in jail and fines of $500-$5,000, and the consequences increase from there:


  • 2-6 years in prison and fines from $2,000-$500,000 for Level 3 Drug Felonies
  • 4-16 years in prison and fines from $3,000-$750,000 for Level 2 Drug Felonies
  • 8-32 years in prison and fines from $5,000-$1 million for Level 1 Drug Felonies


In other words, there are no trafficking offenses that aren’t “serious.” If you find yourself facing charges and hope to have a positive outcome, you need to come up with the best possible defense strategy for your situation. That means reaching out to a knowledgeable Denver drug trafficking lawyer who has a track record of success – and doing so as early in the process as possible.



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.

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