Colorado Heroin Laws

Use, possession or sale of heroin in Colorado

Colorado's laws on controlled substances make it a crime to knowingly use, possess, or sell heroin.

Heroin is a Colorado and federal Schedule I drug. Schedule 1 drugs are those that, according to the government:

  • Have a high potential for abuse,
  • No currently accepted medical use in the United States, and
  • Lack accepted safety for use even under medical supervision.

Penalties for heroin use, possession or sale

Using heroin is a Colorado misdemeanor, punishable solely by a fine of between $50 and $750. However, selling heroin or even simply possessing it is a felony.

Although the court might sentence you to drug treatment for simple possession (meaning you didn't intend to sell it) if you are eligible, the consequences of possessing heroin for personal use can include:

  • Up to 1 year of incarceration, and/or
  • A fine of up to $100,000.

Penalties for selling heroin or possessing it for sale are much steeper and depend largely on the quantity of heroin involved. At the low end, you are looking at a possible sentence of 2 years in prison.

In cases of large-scale heroin distribution, prison time is mandatory and can be as much as 32 years.

You also face punishment in this category if you sell any amount of heroin to a minor who is 2 years or more younger than you.

Defending Colorado heroin charges

Fortunately, there are a large number of ways to defend against Colorado heroin charges, especially use or simple possession. But there are ways to defend even charges of large-scale distribution.

Common defenses a skilled Colorado drug defense lawyer can raise include (but are not limited to):

  • The heroin wasn't yours,
  • The heroin was for your personal use,
  • You didn't know you had the heroin,
  • You possessed the heroin, but you didn't know that what you had was a controlled substance,
  • There wasn't enough heroin to use as a drug, or
  • The drugs were found during an illegal search or as a result of police misconduct.

To help you better understand Colorado's laws on heroin, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

1. Unlawful use of heroin --- Colorado 18-18-404 C.R.S.

As a Schedule 1 drug, heroin has no legally accepted use in the United States. Use of heroin is, therefore, entirely illegally.

However, the state of Colorado is more interested in getting addicts the help they need rather than punishing them – as long as they are not involved in selling or distributing the drug.

As a result, simply using heroin is a Colorado level 2 drug misdemeanor under Section 18-18-404 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

1.1. Penalty for unlawful use of heroin

There is no jail time for unlawfully using heroin in Colorado. The sole penalty is a potential fine of $50-$750. Alternatively, the court may defer your trial and permit you to undergo drug treatment at your own expense. Upon successful completion, your misdemeanor use charge will be dismissed.

However, if you possess the heroin you use (as opposed to being given it by someone else), you face prosecution for unlawful possession, which is a felony.

2. Possession of heroin --Colorado 18-18-403.5 C.R.S.

Section 18-18-403.5 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) makes it a Colorado level 4 drug felony to knowingly possess heroin.

You knowingly possess heroin when you know that you have it and you know that it is a controlled substance (even if you don't know what it is or its chemical makeup).

2.1. Penalties for possession of heroin

Punishment for knowingly possessing heroin in Colorado can include:

  • 6-12 months in prison (plus 1 year of parole), and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

However, if the amount of heroin you possessed was no more than 4 grams, the crime is a "wobbler" and the court has the authority to give you probation and defer your sentence. This will allow you to complete drug assessment and treatment. If you successfully complete drug treatment and do not violate the conditions of your parole, your charges will be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Terms and conditions or your probation may include:

  • Not using unlawful drugs while on probation,
  • Attending and completing a court-approved drug treatment program,
  • That you not commit any crimes, and/or
  • Anything else the court deems in your and the public's best interests.

You are not eligible for drug diversion (treatment) if:

  • You are ineligible for probation under 18-1.3-201 C.R.S.,
  • You have ever been convicted of a crime of violence,
  • You have two or more prior felony drug convictions (including any prior diversions or drug felonies reduced to misdemeanors).

For purposes of Colorado's drug diversion eligibility, prior felonies will count if they were:

  • Felonies under the laws of Colorado or any other state,
  • Federal felonies, or
  • Juvenile crimes that would have been felonies if committed by an adult.1

And finally, if you are subject to Colorado's aggravating drug felony sentencing range, the court must sentence you to at least 9 months of incarceration (with the maximum possible sentence increasing to 2 years in prison). Aggravated sentencing applies in numerous situations, such as being incarcerated or on parole for a felony at the time of your heroin possession or sale.

For a full list of aggravating factors, please see our article on Colorado's aggravated drug sentencing.

3. Unlawful sale or possession for sale of heroin -- Colorado 18-18-405 C.R.S.

18-18-405 C.R.S. makes it a felony to do any of the following with heroin:

  • sell, 
  • manufacture, 
  • distribute,
  • dispense,
  • possess for sale,
  • induce, attempt to induce, or conspire with one or more other persons to do any of the foregoing, or 
  • possess one or more chemicals or supplies or equipment with intent to manufacture heroin.

3.1. Penalties for sale of heroin or possession with intent to sell

Sale of heroin (or possession with intent to sell) is a Colorado felony. Penalties for the sale or possession for sale of heroin depend on:

  • The quantity of heroin involved, and
  • The age of the person you sell or intend to sell to.

3.1.1. More than 112 grams or sale to a minor

Selling heroin, or possessing it for sale, is a Colorado level 1 drug felony when:

  • Any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing heroin weighs more than 112 grams (just under 4 ounces), or
  • You are an adult and you sell, dispense, distribute, or otherwise transfer any quantity of heroin (or any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that contains heroin) to a minor who is at least two years younger than you.2

Consequences of a Colorado level 1 heroin felony can include:

  • 8-32 years in prison (with a minimum of 8 years mandatory and 3 years mandatory parole), and
  • A potential fine of $5,000-$1,000,000.

If you are subject to Colorado's aggravated felony drug sentencing, however, you face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 12 years.

3.1.2. More than 7 grams, but not more than 112 grams

Selling heroin or possessing it for sale is a Colorado level 2 drug felony if the material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing heroin weighs more than 7 grams, but not more than 112 grams.3

As a Colorado level 2 drug felony, heroin sale or possession for sale can be punished by:

  • 4-8 years in prison (with 2 years mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $3,000-$750,000.

If you are subject to Colorado's aggravated sentencing range, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 8 years in prison and may be imprisoned for as long as 16 years.

3.1.3. Not more than 7 grams

You commit a Colorado level 3 drug felony when you sell or possess for sale any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing heroin and weighing not more than 7 grams.

Consequences of selling this small quantity of heroin or possessing it for sale can include:

  • 2-4 years in prison (with 1-year mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

In the aggravated range, a Colorado level 3 drug felony can be punished by 4-6 years in prison.

3.1.4. Not more than 2 grams of heroin for immediate consumption

In keeping with Colorado's desire not to punish addicts too harshly, it is “only” a Colorado level 4 drug felony if:

  • The violation for heroin sale or possession for sale was for the purpose of consuming all of the heroin with another person or persons at a time substantially contemporaneous with the transfer; and 
  • The distribution or transfer involved not more than 2 grams of heroin.5

Penalties for heroin sale or possession for sale as a Colorado level 4 drug felony can include:

  • Incarceration of 6 months to one year (with 1-year mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

Alternatively, you may be eligible for deferred sentencing and drug treatment, which can reduce your level 4 drug felony charge to a misdemeanor charge for simple possession.

If you are subject to aggravated sentencing, however, you face 1-2 years in prison.

4. Defending Colorado heroin charges

There is no one best defense to Colorado heroin charges. The best approach for you depends on the specific charges and the facts of your case.

But some common defenses to Colorado heroin charges frequently include (without limitation):

  • The heroin belonged to someone else;
  • You didn't know you possessed the heroin;
  • You knew you had the heroin but you didn't know what it was and didn't know of its nature as a controlled substance;
  • The heroin was for your personal use;
  • The police found only trace amounts of heroin;
  • There wasn't as much heroin as the prosecutor says there was (partial defense);
  • The drugs were discovered as the result of a Colorado illegal search and seizure;
  • There was other police misconduct (coerced confession, false evidence, failure to read you your rights, etc.).

Call us for help…

If you or someone you know has been charged with heroin use, possession, possession for sale or sale and you are looking for the best Colorado drug defense lawyers available, you've come to the right place. We fight aggressively to get your heroin case dismissed or the charges against you reduced. We can also help in seeking release from any of the Colorado jails, including the Weld County Jail.

And if what you need is treatment instead of jail or prison time, we will work to see that you get it instead of criminal record.

Don't get branded a drug felon and face the loss of your freedom and constitutional rights. 

You can reach us through the confidential form on this page or by calling us at our convenient Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver CO 80211
(303) 222-0330

Arrested in Nevada? Go to our Nevada heroin laws.

Legal references:

  1. 18-1.3-401.5 (2)(b)(V) C.R.S.
  2. 18-18-405 (2)(a) C.R.S.
  3. 18-18-405 (2)(b) C.R.S.
  4. 18-18-405 (2)(c) C.R.S.
  5. 18-18-405 (2)(d) C.R.S.



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