Penalties for Methamphetamine Possession in Utah

Methamphetamine, or “meth,” has become a serious issue in Utah, which is reflected in the penalties levied for its possession. A conviction for methamphetamine possession can result in not only years in prison but a loss of many of your basic rights.

That is where our defense firm comes in. We have spent years defending clients in these cases and can help you determine how best to deal with the charges you are facing. Not every possession case ends in imprisonment. There are now more opportunities than ever to get treatment where only punishment used to be an option. However, some cases are such that they must be heard in court. In either situation, our team can help you craft a defense strategy that can potentially shield you from the worst penalties.

Contact Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 for a free evaluation of your case with our Salt Lake City drug possession defense attorneys.

What Are the Penalties For Methamphetamine Possession in Utah?

Utah, like many states, has stringent laws governing controlled substances, including methamphetamine. Recognized for its potential for abuse and dependency, methamphetamine possession is treated with great seriousness under Utah law. However, the state’s approach aims to balance punitive measures with opportunities for rehabilitation, reflecting a broader understanding of substance abuse as both a legal and public health issue.

In Utah, possession of methamphetamine is categorized based on the amount of the substance found and the individual’s criminal history. Under Utah Code § 58-37-8(1), possession of any amount of methamphetamine, even if for personal use, is classified as a third-degree felony. This classification reflects the state’s strict stance against methamphetamine because of its high potential for addiction and massive societal harm.

Incarceration and Fines

A third-degree felony for methamphetamine possession can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. These penalties underscore the legal system’s efforts to impose significant consequences for drug offenses while also considering the capacity for rehabilitation.

Under Utah Code § 58-37-8(1)(d), however, second and first-degree felony possession convictions are punishable by five to 15 years in prison. In extremely serious cases, this could be enhanced to life in prison.

Impact of Prior Convictions on Your Case

For individuals with prior drug convictions, the penalties for methamphetamine possession can be more severe. A third conviction elevates the charge to a second-degree felony, which can lead to one to fifteen years in prison and fines up to $10,000. This escalation in penalties is intended to serve as a deterrent to repeat offenses and signals the seriousness with which Utah views the possession of methamphetamine.

Probation and Ordered Rehabilitation

In some cases, courts might offer alternatives to incarceration, such as probation or mandatory participation in rehabilitation programs. While these options aim to address the underlying issues of substance abuse, they come with their own set of restrictions and obligations, including regular drug testing, meetings with probation officers, and compliance with treatment protocols.

Loss of Some Civil Rights

Felony convictions result in the loss of certain civil rights, such as the right to vote, possess firearms, and, in some cases, the ability to hold public office or serve on a jury. These losses represent a significant diminishment of civic participation and personal freedoms.

Impacts on Your Personal Life

A methamphetamine possession conviction carries a significant social stigma, affecting personal relationships and social interactions. The label of being a convicted felon can lead to isolation, strained family dynamics, and difficulties in forming new relationships, all of which can exacerbate feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety.

Convicted felons also face substantial barriers to employment. Many employers are hesitant to hire individuals with a criminal record, particularly for positions of trust or those requiring licensing. This can limit job opportunities to lower-paying roles with fewer benefits, impacting long-term career prospects and financial stability.

Similar barriers exist in education, where individuals with felony convictions might find it difficult to gain admission to colleges or universities, secure financial aid, or participate in certain academic programs. These obstacles can derail educational goals and limit future career advancement.

Finding stable, affordable housing is another challenge for those with a methamphetamine possession conviction. Landlords might be reluctant to rent to individuals with felony records, limiting options and potentially leading to unstable living conditions.

Convictions can also affect eligibility for certain forms of public assistance, including food stamps, welfare benefits, and federal student aid. These restrictions can compound financial difficulties, making recovery and reintegration into society more challenging.

What Are Common Defenses to Methamphetamine Possession in Utah?

Defending against methamphetamine possession charges in Utah requires a nuanced understanding of broad legal principles. From challenging the legality of law enforcement actions to arguing against the nature and intent of possession, various strategies can be employed. However, each of these defenses is highly context-specific, requiring a detailed examination of the facts and circumstances of each case.

Lack of Knowledge

One common defense to methamphetamine possession is claiming a lack of knowledge. Under this defense, the defendant argues they were unaware of the presence of methamphetamine. This defense hinges on the ability to convincingly demonstrate to the court that the defendant had no knowledge of the controlled substance being in their vicinity or property. It is a defense rooted in the principle that one cannot intentionally possess what one does not know exists.

Lack of Possession

Closely related to the lack of knowledge defense is the argument that the defendant did not actually possess the methamphetamine. Possession, in legal terms, can be actual or constructive. Actual possession means the drug was found on the person, while constructive possession implies the drug was in a location over which the individual had control. Arguing lack of possession involves demonstrating that the defendant neither had physical custody of the substance nor control over the area where the drugs were found.

Unlawful Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. If law enforcement conducts a search without a valid warrant or probable cause and methamphetamine is discovered as a result, the evidence might be deemed inadmissible in court. This defense requires a meticulous analysis of the circumstances surrounding the search and seizure, including whether the police had a lawful basis for their actions.


Duress involves situations where the defendant was forced into possessing methamphetamine because of threats, violence, or the fear of immediate harm. Demonstrating duress requires proving that the defendant’s actions were not voluntary but were instead the result of coercion. This defense acknowledges possession but removes culpability because of the circumstances under which possession occurred.


Entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces a person to commit a crime they would not have otherwise committed. For an entrapment defense to be successful in a methamphetamine possession case, it must be shown that the idea to possess the drug originated with law enforcement and that the defendant was not predisposed to commit such an offense. This defense challenges the conduct of the police rather than disputing the facts of possession.

Our Utah Methamphetamine Possession Defense Attorneys Can Help You Fight the Penalties You Face

Call our Salt Lake City drug possession defense lawyers today at Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 for a free assessment of your case.