The War on Drugs is still alive and well in America, even with the legalization of recreational marijuana in over a dozen states – including right here. Weed might be legal, but lots of other drugs aren’t, and even first-time possession charges could result in jail time or fees.
If you are caught with drugs in Colorado, however, you won’t face just one set of penalties. The specific drugs involved, as well as the amount of drugs you possess, will dictate the charges and penalties you face.
Some drugs are considered more severe than others, so it is important to know what you are up against if you have to go to court for a drug charge.
Colorado Marijuana Possession Is Still (Sometimes) a Crime
Colorado was one of the first states to legalize both the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana. Because of this, marijuana is an exception to typical controlled substance rules.
That being said, there are still limits on how much you can possess and whether or not you can sell the substance. There are also age limits involved. Like alcohol, you have to be 21 years old to purchase and consume marijuana.
If you’re caught with over two ounces of marijuana, or are openly consuming marijuana in public, you could be charged with a petty offense. Marijuana crimes can even become felony charges if you are caught:
- Growing over six plants
- Possessing more than 12 ounces of marijuana
- Selling over four ounces without a proper license
Drug Schedules Determine Other Colorado Possession Charges
Not every drug is given a unique sentencing range like marijuana. State and federal legislation categorizes drugs into “schedules” based on the severity of the drug.
Schedule I drugs, like heroin, are the most severe. Schedule V drugs are typically prescribed as medication, but have the possibility of becoming addictive. (Codeine, however, is considered a Schedule II drug.)
Possession of illegal drugs that belong to Schedule III-V, for example, may only result in Class 1 misdemeanor charges. Penalties for Class 1 misdemeanor crimes include up to 18 months behind bars and up to $5,000 in fines.
However, along with the type of drug, the amount that you possess will determine whether you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges. The exception to this rule is the possession of flunitrazepam or ketamine. Possession of even a small amount of these drugs could result in felony charges.
If you are caught with under four grams of flunitrazepam, ketamine, or any other Schedule I or Schedule II drug, you will be charged with a Class 6 felony. If the quantity is above four grams, the charges are increased to a Class 4 felony.
Penalties are even more severe if you are caught with drugs that contain methamphetamines. Charges for possession of up to two grams of methamphetamines is a Class 6 felony. If you are caught with over two grams, the charges are increased to a Class 4 felony.
There Are Ways to Get Your Charges Reduced
If you are charged with drug possession in Colorado, you can use many strategies to reduce your penalties or have your charges dropped entirely.
Felony charges, for example, can become a misdemeanor if you complete certain rehabilitation programs. If prosecutors cannot prove that you possessed more severe drugs, or that the drugs involved belonged to Schedule I or Schedule II, your charges could be reduced or dropped.
The more you know about the charges against you, the easier it will be to build a successful defense strategy.
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.