In Colorado, defendants facing criminal charges for some felony drug offenses may have their charges reduced to a misdemeanor. Some drug offenders who successfully complete a court-ordered community-based sentence can have their felony reduced to a misdemeanor. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. How does a drug felony get reduced to a misdemeanor?
- 2. What are the differences between a felony and misdemeanor drug conviction?
- 3. What drug offenses are eligible for a misdemeanor reduction?
- 4. What is a community-based sentence?
- 5. What happens if you fail the program?
- 6. Related Topics
Under C.R.S. 18-13-103.5, certain felony drug convictions can be vacated and entered as a misdemeanor conviction after successful completion of a community-based sentence. This is not the same as a deferred sentence or deferred judgment. This opportunity may be available to anyone convicted of certain felony drug offenses, whether they entered a plea of guilty or were found guilty by a jury.1
In general, a felony conviction has more significant consequences than a misdemeanor. This includes increased penalties and a lifelong impact on job and life-opportunities into the future. The sentencing reduction provides an opportunity for drug offenders to avoid a felony conviction who were otherwise not eligible for a diversion or deferred judgment program.
The maximum penalty for a class 1 misdemeanor conviction is 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Extraordinary risk misdemeanors may include a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison, or higher in some cases. However, many misdemeanor criminal charges will result in probation or a very short jail sentence.
The penalties for a felony conviction are much higher, often requiring mandatory prison sentences. The maximum penalty for a class 1 felony in Colorado is life in prison, or a death sentence for capital crimes. In addition, there are a number of penalties that go beyond jail and fines.
A felony conviction has other consequences even after serving jail time and paying court-ordered fines. A felony conviction can have limitations on your future involving access to:
- Public housing
- Government benefits
- Student loan eligibility
- Child custody
- Working with children
- Government job opportunities
- Professional licenses
- Jury service
- Running for public office
- Owning a firearm
- Travel restrictions
- Immigration status
Even if there are no direct restrictions on applying for a certain job, most employers will ask about criminal convictions. A felony criminal conviction makes it much more difficult to find a job, or even get an interview for a job.
The purpose of this sentencing reduction law is, “to expand opportunities for offenders to avoid a drug felony conviction, to reduce the significant negative consequences of that felony conviction, and to provide positive reinforcement for drug offenders who work successfully to complete any community-based sentence imposed by the court.”2
Not all felony drug offenses are eligible for a misdemeanor reduction. According to the statue, felony sentencing reduction only applies to convictions for:
- Possession of not more than 4 grams of a schedule I or schedule II controlled substance;
- Possession of not more than 2 grams of methamphetamine;
- Possession of not more than 2 grams of heroine;
- Possession of not more than 2 grams of ketamine;
- Possession of not more than 2 grams of cathinones;
- Possession of not more than 4 grams of flunitrazepam;
- Possession of more than 12 ounces of marijuana;
- Possession of more than 3 ounces of marijuana concentrate;
- Prescription drug fraud under C.R.S. 18-18-415; or
- Level 4 drug felony for distribution under C.R.S. 18-18-405(2)(d)(II).3
However, even if someone is charged with one of the above felony offenses, the defendant is not eligible for a sentencing reduction if he or she has a prior conviction for a crime of violence; the defendant is ineligible for probation; or the defendant has 2 or more prior felony drug convictions.4
Community-based sentences offer alternative sentencing options for certain criminal offenses. These may be implemented to allow individuals to continue employment, stay connected to the community, and seek substance abuse treatment instead of serving a sentence in prison.
Community-based service programs monitor offenders who carry out their sentences in independent living apartments, community corrections, or home detention. While serving a community-based sentence, offenders may be subject to monitoring by state and local law enforcement or other agencies. Conditions of a community-based sentence may include:
- Random drug testing
- Drug or alcohol education classes
- GPS monitoring
- Alcohol monitoring
- Home curfew
- Daily reporting
- Community service
Whether a sentence is successfully completed to be eligible for a sentencing reduction is determined by the court, with notice to the district attorney and the defendant or defendant's attorney. When the court determines the community-based sentence is completed, the defendant's felony drug conviction will be vacated and a level 1 drug misdemeanor conviction will be entered for possession of a controlled substance.5
If the defendant has not successfully completed the treatment as ordered by the court and determined to address the defendant's treatment needs, the defendant will not have their felony drug conviction reduced. They may have to continue serving out their community-based sentence. Depending on the terms of their sentence, any violations of the terms of their sentence may result in imprisonment, an extended sentence, or additional penalties.
In Colorado, individuals facing certain criminal offenses may be offered a deferred judgment and sentence. In exchange for pleading guilty, the defendant will have to meet certain conditions during a probationary period. If they complete the terms of their deferred sentence, the case against them will be dismissed.
The law provides alternative imposition of sentence for certain level 4 drug felony cases. During sentencing or resentence after revocation of probation, the court may consider all reasonable and appropriate alternative sentences, including treatment programs or probation.
Some individuals may be able to leave detention during necessary and reasonable hours for seeking employment, working, attending school, or seeking medical treatment. Home detention in Colorado criminal cases is an alternative correctional sentence where the defendant remains within their approved residence at all times except for court-approved activities.
When the defendant entered into alternative sentencing, the court may enter an order of collateral relief which is intended to improve the defendant's likelihood of success, including preserving or improving the defendant's job and employment prospects.
Call us for help...
If you have been charged with a felony drug crime, you may be eligible to have your charge reduced to a misdemeanor after completing a community-based sentence. If you have any questions about a sentencing reduction or probationary program, contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our caring Colorado defense attorneys have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with criminal drug offenses. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.
- C.R.S. 18-1.3-103.5(2)(a)
- C.R.S. 18-1.3-103.5(1)
- C.R.S. 18-1.3-103.5(3)
- C.R.S. 18-1.3-103.5(4)
- C.R.S. 18-1.3-103.5(2)(b)