Whether or not drug distribution is a felony in Salt Lake City, Utah depends on the sort of drug involved and whether or not the convicted distributor is a repeat offender. Both state and federal law determine this. Federal law separates controlled substances into different categories based on their particular characteristics, while state law prohibits their distribution and determines criminal classification and the range of penalties. Salt Lake City is subject to the same controlled substances laws as the rest of the State of Utah. If you or a loved one was arrested on drug possession charges in Utah, talk to Salt Lake City drug crime lawyer Darwin Overson today.
Drug Distribution Felonies in Utah
A felony is any crime that may result in a year or more of imprisonment or capital punishment. A misdemeanor is any crime punishable by less than a year imprisonment, and may result in punishment by other means, like probation and/or fines. The category of felony or misdemeanor correlates with how federal law classifies the substance and whether the offender has been convicted of the same type of offense beforehand.
Under Utah state law, the Utah Controlled Substances Act (“UCSA”) governs penalties for controlled substances. Utah distinguishes between capital, first degree, second degree, and third degree felony categories, as well as between Class A, Class B, and Class C misdemeanors.
The UCSA prohibits the “knowing and intentional” production, manufacture, dispensing, or distribution of controlled or counterfeit substances. For conviction of a controlled substances crime, the person must know or reasonably should know that he/she is distributing the substance and must also intend to distribute the substance. Thus, a reasonable belief that the substance distributed is not illegal may not be enough to find guilt. Likewise, distribution under force from another may excuse guilt.
On the federal level, the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) regulates controlled substances. This legislation divides controlled substances into five separate categories called Schedules. It is helpful to understand the characteristics of each of these categories in order to make sense of the penalties under the UCSA.
Drug Schedules in Utah
Schedule I substances have a high likelihood for abuse, have no accepted use in medical treatment, and/or cannot be made safe enough for use in medical treatment. Schedule I offenses typically carry the most severe penalties, according to the CSA. Each subsequent schedule carries less severe penalties than the last. Schedule II substances have a high likelihood for abuse, do have an accepted use in medical treatment with or without severe restrictions, and/or may cause severe dependence if abused.
Schedule III substances have a somewhat lower likelihood for abuse than those of the first two schedules, do have an accepted use in medical treatment, and/or may cause low to medium dependence if abused. Schedule IV substances have a lower likelihood for abuse than those of the first three schedules, do have an accepted use in medical treatment, and/or may cause low dependence if abused.
Schedule V substances have a lower likelihood for abuse than those of the first four schedules, do have an accepted use in medical treatment, and/or may cause low physical and/or psychological dependence if abused.
Penalties for Drug Crimes in UT
Under the USCA, penalties apply not only to controlled substances, but also to counterfeit and analogous substances. According to a 2017 Utah case called Mike’s Smoke, Cigar & Gifts v. St. George City, a “controlled substance analog” is so substantially similar to the real thing that its distribution is subject to the same penalties.
Intentional or knowledgeable distribution of a Schedule I or II substance or of gammahydroxybutyric acid (found in Schedule III) is a second degree felony if it is a first time conviction. This may result in a prison term of one to fifteen years and/or a fine of up to $10,000. A subsequent offense is a first degree felony, which may result in five years to a life term in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Intentional or knowledgeable distribution of a Schedule III or IV substance, of marijuana, or of a substance listed in Section 58-37-4.2. of the USCA counts as a third degree felony if it is a first time conviction. This will result in a prison term between zero and five years and/or a fine up to $5,000. A subsequent offense of this type is a second degree felony (see above for the possible penalties).
Intentional or knowledgeable distribution of a Schedule V substance is a class A misdemeanor if it is a first time conviction. A class A misdemeanor may result in a prison term up to one year and/or a fine up to $2,500. A repeat offense is a third degree felony (see above for the possible penalties).
Lastly, participation in a continuous criminal enterprise in distributing controlled substances constitutes a first degree felony (see above for the possible penalties). There is no possibility for probation here.
If the finder of fact (normally the jury, sometimes the judge) finds use, carrying, or possession of a firearm at the time of the illegal distribution, the court must tack on an additional (consecutive, nor concurrent) year to the prison term. The court has discretion to increase the term up to five consecutive years.
Salt Lake City Drug Crimes Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one was charged with a drug possession crime, talk to an attorney today. Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson offers free consultations on new cases. For your free consultation, contact our law offices today at (801) 758-2287.