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Colorado Unlawful Use of a Controlled Substance

Colorado Springs Unlawful Use of a Controlled Substance Lawyer

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Colorado Statute CRS 18-18-404, known as unlawful use of a controlled substance, is a Level 2 drug misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail, along with fines. This charge is defined as using controlled substances or illegal prescription drugs, including but not limited to oxycontin, fentanyl, and cocaine.

Penalties for Unlawful Use of a Controlled Substance in Colorado

Charge Classification Penalty
Unlawful Use of a Controlled Substance Level 2 Drug Misdemeanor
  • Up to 12 months in jail; and/or
  • A fine between $50 and $750
Possession of a Controlled Substance Level 1 Drug Misdemeanor
  • 6 to 18 months in jail; and/or
  • A fine of up to $1,000
Possession of a Controlled Substance Level 4 Drug Felony
  • From 6 months to 1 year in prison; and/or
  • A fine between $1,000 to $100,000
  • 1 year of parole
(Colo. Rev. Stat. § § 18-18-404, 18-1.3-401, 18-1.3-406, 18-1.3-501.)

It is important to note that Colorado courts often reduce a defendant’s penalties for a level 2 drug misdemeanor.

For example, they may receive the following:

  • Probation of up to one year
  • Up to 120 days in jail (or up to 180 days in jail for a third or higher offense)
  • A fine of up to $500

Of course, each case is different, and mitigating and aggravating factors can affect your specific sentence.

Possible Defenses for Unlawful Use of a Controlled Substance in Colorado

The prosecutor must prove elements to show that the defendant committed the crime of unlawful use of a controlled substance. They must do this to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, a Colorado criminal defense attorney can use defenses to prove the defendant’s innocence or to convince the judge to  reduce or dismiss their charges.

There are many possible defenses a lawyer can use to fight a drug charge, such as:

  • The police did not have probable cause to arrest the defendant
  • The defendant was falsely accused or identified
  • The defendant did not use a controlled substance
  • The defendant had a prescription for the substance
  • The defendant was unaware that it was a controlled substance

Colorado Revised Statutes, CRS 18-18-404:

18-18-404. Unlawful Use of a Controlled Substance:

(1) (a) Except as is otherwise provided for offenses concerning marijuana and marijuana concentrate in sections 18-18-406 and 18-18-406.5, any person who uses any controlled substance, except when it is dispensed by or under the direction of a person licensed or authorized by law to prescribe, administer, or dispense the controlled substance for bona fide medical needs, commits a level 2 drug misdemeanor.

(b) Repealed.

(1.1) Repealed.

(2) and (3) (Deleted by amendment, L. 2010, (HB 10-1352), ch. 259, p. 1163, § 2, effective August 11, 2010.)

(4) Repealed.

Have You Been Charged or Arrested for Unlawful Use of a Controlled Substance in Colorado Springs or El Paso County?

You could face grave consequences if you are charged with unlawful use of a controlled substance. Besides having a tarnished record, you may have to pay significant fines or even go to jail.

However, the prosecutor must convince the jury that you knowingly and unlawfully used a controlled substance to convict.

The jury must believe that you are, beyond a reasonable doubt, guilty of the crime to be convicted. There are several defenses a lawyer can use to help convince the jury you are innocent. For example, having a prescription for the substance is a common defense for this charge. Still, you must understand Colorado law regarding drug use to defend yourself against the district attorney.

If you have questions about the charges you’re facing or need help with your criminal case, contact a Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney at Right Law Group today.


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Colorado criminal procedure

  • Arrest or

    Arrest or

    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

    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

    Advisement of

    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

    Preliminary Hearing
    (for Higher Felony

    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 /

    Pretrial Conference /

    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


    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

    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

    Pretrial Readiness

    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

    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


    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

Are there any exceptions for unlawful use of a controlled substance in Colorado?

There are two exceptions to this statute. The first is that the person was using marijuana, which is legal under Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws. The second exception is that the person had a doctor’s prescription to take the controlled substance.

What is the difference between drug use and drug possession in Colorado?

Drug use is the act of using a controlled substance, while drug possession is when someone has control over the substance. This can include physically holding or storing the drug. In Colorado, unlawful drug possession has more severe punishments than illegal drug use.

Can my unlawful drug use charge be dismissed?

The prosecutor must prove to the jury that you are guilty of unlawful controlled substance use. The case could be dropped if your criminal defense attorney can prove that the prosecutor’s evidence is insufficient.