If you’re caught with illegal drugs in Colorado, you could be facing some serious penalties, even if you were carrying them for personal use. While some are less serious, other controlled substances are associated with lengthy prison sentences. That’s why it’s pivotal to understand how drugs are classified and the risks they entail.
Illegal drugs are called controlled substances, and they are made illegal under Title 18, Article 18 of Colorado Statutes. The law separates controlled substances into five classifications or “schedules” according to their potential for abuse and their accepted medical benefits.
Classifications of Drugs
Schedule I – These are unsafe substances with no accepted medicinal benefits and a high potential for abuse. Examples include heroin, GHB, LSD, and ecstasy.
Schedule II – These highly addictive substances have no medicinal benefit and a high potential for abuse. Some examples are cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine, hydrocodone, and morphine.
Schedule III – These substances are considered to have a lower potential for abuse, but they are still considered highly addictive. This category includes ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone, Suboxone, and medicines with small amounts of morphine or codeine.
Schedule IV – Substances in this category have a lower potential for abuse than those in the third level, and they are believed to be less addictive. Examples include Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, Valium, and Ambien.
Schedule V – These are generally prescribed substances that are considered less addictive than those in level four. Some medications with small traces of codeine or opium fall under this category.
Penalties for Drug-related Offenses
The substances covered in these five schedules vary widely in the levels of danger they pose to the community, so penalties for drug crimes range from small fines to lengthy prison sentences. Judges consider many factors, from criminal history to conduct at the time of the arrest, but the Schedule and amount of the drug may weigh heavier than others.
In Colorado, possession of less than four grams of most controlled substances is charged as a Level 1 Drug Misdemeanor — punishable by up to six months jail and/or $500 to $5,000 in fines.
Colorado courts usually prefer requiring drug possession offenders to complete treatment programs rather than sentence them to jail time.
Unlawful possession of more than four grams of a Schedule I or II substance or any amount of flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), ketamine, or cathinone (“bath salts”) is a Level 4 Drug Felony, which is punishable in Colorado by six to 12 months in prison and/or $1,000 to $100,000 in fines.
If a person is guilty of selling or distributing a Schedule I or II substance in Colorado, they may find themselves with a hefty prison sentence of up to 32 years.
As of 2014, marijuana is legal in Colorado, meaning it is no longer considered a controlled dangerous substance and does not fall under any schedule.
However, it is still illegal for an individual to be in possession of more than 28 grams. Plus, the unlicensed sale or transfer of marijuana is still classified as a felony under some circumstances. If a person is arrested with more than twelve ounces of marijuana, they can be charged with a felony.
What You Can Do
No matter the classification, if you find yourself facing drug charges of any kind, it’s always best to seek legal advice from an experienced professional in order to avoid maximum fines and sentencing. Drug charges carry serious penalties with lasting repercussions, but knowledgeable attorneys have a repertoire of defenses in their arsenals.
About the Author:
Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.