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CRS 18-18-404

Colorado Unlawful Use of a Controlled Substance

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.

Let’s face it. Life happens.

No one wants to get in trouble, but when it happens, what do you do?

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, the best decision you can make is to
hire a good criminal defense attorney. With the right defense lawyer in your corner, you
will be advised and guided towards the best outcome for your case.

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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.

FAQ: Colorado Unlawful Use of a Controlled Substance


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.

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