The drug crime lawyers of Colorado Legal Defense Group fight to get your narcotics charges dropped or reduced to a lesser offense with no jail.
Colorado law makes it only a level 1 drug misdemeanor to possess up to four grams of certain drugs like ecstasy, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, or cocaine. And many defendants have the option to complete a drug diversion program and get their case completely dismissed.
Below our Colorado criminal defense attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about drug charges.
What are the new drug laws in Colorado?
As of March 1, 2020, HB 19-1263 defelonized certain drug possession crimes in the state of Colorado. Specifically, it is now only a level 1 drug misdemeanor to possess up to four grams of most schedule I or II drugs. But it remains a felony to possess any quantity of GBH or Rohypnol.1
What is a drug felony in Colorado?
Most drug felonies in Colorado involve making or selling narcotics. There are four levels of drug felonies. Level 1 is the most serious, level 4 is the least:
Colorado drug felony and examples
Selling more than 50 lbs of marijuana
Convictions can never be sealed.
Selling more than 14 grams to up to 225 grams of a schedule I or II controlled substance
Convictions can be sealed five years after the case ends.
Selling no more than 14 grams of schedule I or II drugs
Convictions can be sealed three years after the case ends.
Selling no more than 4 grams of schedule III or schedule IV drugs
Convictions can be sealed three years after the case ends.
What are the three basic drug crimes?
Colorado’s three central drug offenses are 1) using drugs, 2) drug possession and 3) selling or making drugs.
1. Using drugs
- taking prescription drugs with a valid prescription and in accordance with the doctor’s dosage instructions, and/or
- using recreational marijuana or medical marijuana in a residence
Unlawfully using drugs is punishable by
- Up to 12 months in county jail, and/or
- $50 to $750 in fines
But courts typically impose the lesser sentence of:
- Probation of up to one year;
- Possibly 120 days in jail (or 180 days in jail for a third or subsequent offense); and
- Up to $500 in fines3
2. Possessing drugs
People may possess up to two ounces of recreational marijuana in Colorado. Otherwise, state law prohibits possessing controlled substances (CRS 18-18-403.5) whether or not anyone consumes them. There are three types of possession:
- Actual possession, which is owning or physically carrying the drugs;
- Constructive possession, which is having control over the drugs – such as storing them in one’s home or car;
- Joint possession, which is sharing ownership or control of the drugs with someone else – such as a spouse or roommate.
Possessing over four grams of schedule I or II drugs is prosecuted as a level 4 drug felony. And possessing GHB, Flunitrazepam, Ketamine, or cathinones is always a level 4 drug felony – no matter than amount. The typical sentence is:
- A prison sentence of six months to two years; and
- $1,000 to $100,000 in fines
Otherwise, possession of controlled substances is usually a level 1 drug misdemeanor. In most cases, courts grant misdemeanor probation of up to two years. Defendants may have to do up to 180 days in jail and/or pay a fine of up to $1,000. (However, a fourth-time offense is a level 4 drug felony.)
In some cases, defendants can do a “Drug Court” diversion treatment program. And upon successful completion, the drug case may be dismissed.4
See our related article on possession of drug paraphernalia (CRS 18-18-428).
3. Selling or making drugs
Selling or manufacturing drugs (CRS 18-18-405) can be a felony or a misdemeanor in Colorado. The punishment depends on:
- The defendant’s criminal history; and
- The quantity and type of drugs.
Predictably, drug offenders who run large-scale drug trafficking operations face stiffer penalties than a person who does a one-time hand-to-hand marijuana sale.5
How do you fight illegal drug charges?
Common defenses to Colorado drug charges are:
- The defendant had no possession of the drugs;
- The defendant was falsely accused or misidentified;
- The police found the drugs through an illegal search and seizure;
- The defendant was entrapped by law enforcement;
- The defendant had a valid prescription.
Typical evidence includes the drugs themselves, video surveillance footage, and eyewitness accounts. If the Colorado drug crime lawyer shows that the police found the drugs through misconduct – such as by an unlawful search – the court may suppress the drugs as evidence. This could leave the D.A. with too weak a case to continue prosecuting.
How much does a lawyer cost in Colorado?
It depends on the case. Colorado drug crime attorneys typically work on a retainer fee basis. But most attorneys offer payment plans and discount rates for clients who cannot pay the entire retainer upfront.
Defendants facing drug charges are always advised to retain private counsel instead of relying on a public defender. Every public defender’s office is understaffed, and public defenders do not have the time and resources to fight for the best possible outcome in each case.
Having a private criminal defense lawyer gives defendants the best possible chance of getting their criminal case dismissed or reduced to a minor offense. Since having a drug conviction on your criminal record can have devastating effects on your livelihood, private attorneys are a worthwhile investment.
Arrested? Contact our Colorado drug crime attorneys for a free case evaluation on your criminal charges. Call us, text us, or use our contact form.
Our Denver criminal defense attorneys have law offices in Colorado Springs and Greeley as well as Denver, CO. And we create attorney-client relationships throughout the state, including Boulder, Englewood, and Arapahoe County.
Our practice areas comprise all areas of criminal law from DUI and domestic violence to theft and white-collar crimes. Disclaimer: Results cannot be guaranteed.
- HB 19-1263.
- CRS 18-1.3-401.5.
- CRS 18-18-404.
- CRS 18-18-403.5; see, e.g., People v. Holmberg, (Colo. App. 1999) 992 P.2d 705; see, e.g., People v. Frantz, (Colo. App. 2004) 114 P.3d 34.
- CRS 18-18-405.