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Colorado Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance

Colorado Springs Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance Lawyer

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Colorado Revised Statute 18-18-403.5—known as unlawful possession of a controlled substance—can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the schedule of the drug and how much the defendant possessed. This crime is punishable by up to 6 to 18 months in jail or 6 to 12 months in prison.

Penalties for Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance in Colorado

Charge Classification Penalty
Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance Misdemeanor Level 1 Drug:

  • 6 to 18 months in jail; and/or
  • A fine from $500 to $5,000
Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance Felony Level 4 Drug:

  • 6 to 12 months in prison; and/or
  • A fine from $1,000 to $100,000
  • A drug offender surcharge of $1,500 to $4,500
Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance Felony Level 2 Drug:

  • 4 to 8 years in prison; and/or
  • A fine from $3,000 to $750,000
(Colo. Rev. Stat. § § 18-18-403.5, 18-1.3-401, 18-1.3-406, 18-1.3-501.)

It is important to note that a fourth or subsequent misdemeanor will be charged as a Level 4 drug felony. Your charge can also be aggravated, which means you will face harsher consequences for your crime.

Penalties for unlawful possession of a controlled substance in Colorado depend on the schedule of drug.

Drug Schedules Examples
Schedule I BZP
Cathinones (“bath salts” or Khat)
Ecstasy (MDMA or Molly)
GHB
Heroin
LSD
Xyrem (a prescription medicine containing GHB that is a Schedule III drug if used with a prescription
Schedule II Amphetamine
Cocaine
Codeine
Mescaline
Methadone
Methamphetamine
Morphine
Opium
Oxycontin
PCP (Angel Dust)
Peyote
Psilocybin (magic mushrooms)
Vicodin
Schedule III Anabolic steroids
Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol)
Ketamine (“K” or “Special K”)
Medications containing small amounts of codeine or morphine
Some barbituates
Schedule IV Benzodiazepines (Valium and Xanax)
Prescription sleep aids (Ambien)
Schedule V Medications with small amounts of codeine or opium

Possible Defenses for Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance in Colorado

The prosecutor must prove that the defendant committed the crime of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. To do this, they must prove elements that show, without a reasonable doubt, that the defendant had possession of a controlled substance regardless of whether or not they owned the drugs.

A criminal defense lawyer will typically use specific defenses to show the defendant is not guilty or convince the judge to reduce their sentence. Here are some common drug defenses used for unlawful possession of a controlled substance:

  • The defendant had a prescription for the drug
  • The defendant did not know they possessed the drug
  • The defendant was not aware that the drug was a controlled substance
  • The defendant was falsely accused
  • The police only found a trace of the controlled substance on the defendant

Remember that you can be charged for the unlawful possession of a controlled substance for simply possessing the drugs, even if the substance does not belong to you.

Colorado Revised Statutes, CRS 18-18-403.5:

18-18-403.5. Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance:

(1) Except as authorized by part 1 or 3 of article 42.5 of title 12, C.R.S., part 2 of article 80 of title 27, C.R.S., section 18-1-711, section 18-18-428 (1) (b), or part 2 or 3 of this article, it is unlawful for a person knowingly to possess a controlled substance.

(2) A person who violates subsection (1) of this section by possessing:

(a) Any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that contains any quantity of flunitrazepam, ketamine, cathinones, or a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II of part 2 of this article commits a level 4 drug felony.

(b) (Deleted by amendment, L. 2013.)

(c) Any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that contains any quantity of a controlled substance listed in schedule III, IV, or V of part 2 of this article except flunitrazepam or ketamine commits a level 1 drug misdemeanor.

(3) If the circumstances described in section 18-18-428 (1) (b) occur, the peace officer shall not arrest the person pursuant to this section for any minuscule, residual controlled substance that may be present in the used hypodermic needle or syringe, and the district attorney shall not charge or prosecute the person pursuant to this section for any minuscule, residual controlled substance that may be present in a used hypodermic needle or syringe. The circumstances described in section 18-18-428 (1) (b) may be used as a factor in a probable cause or reasonable suspicion determination of any criminal offense if the original stop or search was lawful.

Have You Been Charged or Arrested for Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance in Colorado Springs?

In Colorado, unlawful possession of a controlled substance comes with severe consequences, ranging from several months to years in jail or prison, along with hefty fines. For the prosecutor to convict you, they must convince the jury that you were knowingly in unlawful possession of controlled substances. A criminal conviction requires that the jury finds you guilty of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. However, this charge has several defenses, such as having a prescription for the substance or being unaware the drug was a controlled substance. While these defenses are helpful, you still need an advocate on your side to help you understand Colorado law and what the District attorney must prove to convict you. That’s where we come in. Contact our criminal defense attorneys at Right Law Group today.

Don’t let one wrong decision impact your life, job or freedom.

Call today for a free case evaluation.

Colorado criminal procedure

  • Arrest or
    Summons
    01

    Arrest or
    Summons

    The process begins with either an arrest or a summons. The accused is either arrested or served with paperwork summoning them to appear in court. During an arrest, Miranda rights may or may not be read to you. Officers are only required to recite your rights if they intend to question you about potentially incriminating things.

  • Bond Hearing
    02

    Bond Hearing

    In most cases, you're entitled to have a reasonable bond set after you've been arrested. In situations involving domestic violence, the police will request input from the victim before setting a bond. Bonds are set to ensure that a person appears in court at their court dates. If they don’t show up, they forfeit the money that was paid for the bond.

  • Advisement of
    Charges
    03

    Advisement of
    Charges

    Whether you are arrested or given a summons to appear, the court must make sure you understand what crimes you are being accused of committing. This is called advisement of charges. The District Attorney will detail the specific charges against you, and the Judge has to make sure you understand what possible penalties are associated with that charge in the state.

  • Preliminary Hearing
    (for Higher Felony
    Charges)
    04

    Preliminary Hearing
    (for Higher Felony
    Charges)

    A preliminary hearing is a way for your defense attorney to challenge the District Attorney’s right to bring charges against you by making them prove that there is reason to believe you committed a crime. The Judge is not deciding your guilt or innocence, but rather whether or not there is probable cause to charge you with the crime in question.

  • Pretrial Conference /
    Disposition
    Hearing
    05

    Pretrial Conference /
    Disposition
    Hearing

    This court date comes after your attorney has reviewed all of the reports and evidence in your case. Here’s where your attorney will engage in plea negotiations with the DA. If they can reach an agreement on the case, you may be able to take a plea bargain. If they cannot reach a resolution, your case will be set for an arraignment or trial date.

  • Arraignment
    06

    Arraignment

    An arraignment is the final date for you to decide how you choose to plea. Guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, then the case is set for a sentencing date. If you plead not guilty, you and your attorney will then set the case for trial.

  • Motions Hearing
    07

    Motions Hearing

    A motion hearing is when an attorney makes a request that requires a decision from the judge. For example, motions to suppress evidence or statements. These motions can limit the information that goes before a jury if it benefits your case, and there are legal grounds for doing so.

  • Pretrial Readiness
    Conference
    08

    Pretrial Readiness
    Conference

    A pretrial readiness conference is held at some point before trial. It usually is held about a week to a month before the date trial is set to begin. This court date ensures everyone is ready to go to trial on the set date. It is also a time for lawyers to bring up any issues they may have to be addressed before the day of trial.

  • Jury Trial
    09

    Jury Trial

    After a jury is selected for trial, the District Attorney’s responsibility is to present the case to the jury. The DA must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the crime. Otherwise, the jury must find you innocent. Your attorney will be able to cross-examine all of the witnesses, present evidence, and ultimately help you navigate this process.

  • Sentencing
    Date
    10

    Sentencing
    Date

    At sentencing, the Judge must decide the appropriate legal penalty for the crime you plead guilty. The Judge’s decision is based on the listed penalties for the specific charge, recommendations from the presentence investigation, your criminal history, as well as statements made at the sentencing by the District Attorney, your attorney, you, and any named victims of the crime.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different types of drug possession in Colorado?

There are three types of drug possession: actual, constructive, and joint. Actual possession is physically holding the substance, while constructive possession is possessing it without physically touching it. Finally, joint possession is when two or more people own the drug together.

What does “schedule of a drug” mean?

Drug schedules are how substances are classified based on their level of abuse and dependence potential. There are five drug schedules, where Schedule I is the highest level for abuse and Schedule V is the lowest level for abuse.

What are the aggravating factors for unlawful possession of a controlled substance?

Aggravating factors are reasons that the judge might decide to increase your sentence. Some common aggravating factors for unlawful possession of a controlled substance include having previous criminal convictions, being on probation or bond, or being on parole for another felony.