Drug Possession Charges in Utah
The possibility of losing your driver’s license for six months is just the beginning
Utah is tough on drug crimes and drug possession charges in Utah can be severe. Conviction on any drug charge can mean losing your driver license for six months. Drug crimes committed within state-defined “drug-free zones” — 1,000-foot perimeters around schools, churches, parks, shopping malls and the like — are subject to “enhanced” penalties. The state’s zero tolerance doctrine can be a problem for drivers —traces of drugs can linger in your bloodstream for days, so any sobriety test that detects those traces could land you a drugged-driving conviction. The bottom line is that Utah statutes are complex and present many pitfalls to avoid, so it pays to retain an experienced criminal law firm like Fillmore Spencer LLC to defend your rights.
Drug crimes cover a range of illegal activities
From possession of drug paraphernalia to sales of drugs resulting in death and even the illegal use of prescription drugs, Utah laws take a dim view of drug-related crimes. Fillmore Spencer LLC defends you if you are charged with such offenses as:
- Drug abuse — Drug abuse includes not only the use of illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin and ecstasy, but the abuse of prescription drugs as well. Because a large number of drug crimes are committed by people with addictions, to reduce drug abuse and the incidence of drug-related charges, Utah now deploys a series of “drug courts,” which offer detoxification and rehabilitation in lieu of sentencing.
- Possession — Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana can get you a Class B misdemeanor, up to six months in jail and a $1,950 fine, while possession of up to 16 ounces is a Class A misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and a fine of $4,875. But possession of other controlled substances and false or forged prescriptions is charged as a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $9,750. Worse, if police or prosecutors believe you intend to distribute drugs you possess, the charge can be enhanced to “possession with the intent to distribute.”
- Distribution — Utah criminal code makes very little distinction between the crimes of possession with the intent to distribute and drug distribution. Both are typically charged as second-degree felonies, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $19,950. And “distribution” includes not just dealers but anyone who shares, gives, or otherwise provides drugs to another person. If distribution (or possession with intent to distribute, for that matter) occurs in a drug-free zone, the charge becomes a first-degree felony, punishable by up to life in prison and a fine of $19,950.
- Trafficking — Trafficking charges are brought when larger quantities of drugs are involved. Depending on the drug and whether it is a repeat offense, penalties can range from five years in prison to life in prison.
How drug courts work
A criminal defense attorney can tell you whether you may qualify for drug court instead of criminal court. Drug courts focus on eliminating drug addiction as a long-term solution to crime. As such, sentencing relies on participation in rehabilitation programs, frequent testing and court supervision. There are three types of drug court: adult felony drug court, dependency drug court and juvenile dependency drug court.
Adult felony drug court availability varies depending on which county you are in. Drug court is not available to those with past convictions for violent crimes, those whose drugs of choice are either alcohol or marijuana, those with pending charges or convictions of operating production facilities or distribution of controlled substances and those with disruptive behaviors or who otherwise cannot manage structured rehabilitation programs.
Drug court is very similar to pretrial diversion, where qualified participants enter a guilty plea for their charges. This “plea in abeyance” puts sentencing on hold while the offender is enrolled in drug court. If the program is completed successfully, the guilty plea is withdrawn and charges are dismissed. Failure to complete treatment results in sentencing and possible imprisonment.
Take the initiative in defending yourself against drug charges
Given the ramifications of a drug conviction, it’s worth contacting a knowledgeable, experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as you possibly can. Fillmore Spencer LLC can make the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor and between jail time and probation. Call us at (801) 426-8200 or contact us online for a free initial consultation to see how we can help you today.