Were you or one of your family members arrested and charged with possession of controlled substances in Utah? The penalties for this offense can be serious, so make sure you have aggressive and effective legal representation on your side. With more than 16 years of experience handling felony and misdemeanor drug possession charges in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah, criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson has the skills and knows the strategies for defending serious charges involving narcotics, prescription drugs, and drug paraphernalia. For a free legal consultation about your drug possession case, call the law offices of Overson Law, PLLC right away at (801) 758-2287.
Controlled Substance Laws Under Utah Code 58-37-8
Many of Utah’s drug possession laws are located at Utah Code § 58-37-8, which is part of the Utah Controlled Substances Act. This statute will undergo revisions in August 2017, but until then, remains in effect as it is currently written.
The laws that deal with drug paraphernalia, such as bongs or pipes, are contained under separate statutes, mainly Utah Code § 58-37a-5, which is part of the Utah Drug Paraphernalia Act. It is very common for people who have been charged with drug possession to also be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, or vice versa. For instance, the residue left on a pipe or bong can lead to drug possession charges.
State and federal laws make it illegal to own, purchase, receive, or possess any of the controlled substances listed below. Controlled substances are divided into categories called “schedules,” which have a major impact on sentencing. The general rule is that lower schedule numbers, such as Schedule II, are associated with tougher penalties than higher schedule numbers, such as Schedule IV. DEA drug schedule is summarized below.
Schedule I Drugs
- LSD (Acid)
- Marijuana (Cannabis)
- MDMA (Ecstasy)
- Psilocybin Mushrooms (Magic Mushrooms, Shrooms)
Schedule II Drugs
- Crack Cocaine
Schedule III Drugs
Schedule IV Drugs
Schedule V Drugs
- Cough Syrup (less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters)
- Robitussin AC
What is Simple Possession of Drugs in Utah?
Simple possession is generally defined as possession for personal use, as opposed to other drug crimes such as possession with intent to distribute (PWID), production, cultivation, transportation, manufacturing, or drug trafficking.
You may also hear the terms “actual possession” and “constructive possession.” In plain terms, actual possession describes physically having drugs on your person or in your bag. Constructive possession is a more complex concept, and therefore, more difficult for prosecutors to prove. If you are accused of constructive possession, it means that you are being accused of having control over drugs that were kept in a nearby location. In a fairly recent case, State v. Cardona-Gueton (2012), the Utah Court of Appeals ruled that it is constructive possession only when “the defendant had the power and the intent to exercise control over the drugs.”
Utah Drug Possession Sentencing Guidelines and Penalties
Simple possession can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor depending on factors like the type and quantity of the drug allegedly in possession. The penalties depend largely on the type of misdemeanor or felony the defendant is charged with. Utah divides criminal offenses, including drug offenses, into six possible levels:
Misdemeanor Drug Possession Offenses
- Class C Misdemeanor
- Class B Misdemeanor
- Class A Misdemeanor
Felony Drug Possession Offenses
- Third Degree Felony
- Second Degree Felony
- First Degree Felony
The most serious type of misdemeanor in Utah is a Class A misdemeanor. The most serious type of felony is a first degree felony.
Jail Time for Marijuana Possession
Jail sentences for drug possession can have huge variations depending on which of the six categories above the alleged crime falls into. For example, the maximum jail sentence for a Class B misdemeanor is six months, while the maximum prison sentence for a second-degree felony is 15 years. By looking at the Utah marijuana possession penalties below, you can immediately see that the quantity in possession has a huge impact on sentencing.
Possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana
- Classification – Class B Misdemeanor
- Sentence – Up to 6 months in jail
- Fine – Up to $1,000
Possession of 1 ounce to 1 pound of marijuana
- Classification – Class A Misdemeanor
- Sentence – Up to 1 year in jail
- Fine – Up to $2,500
Possession of more than 1 pound, but less than 100 pounds of marijuana
- Classification – Third Degree Felony
- Sentence – 0 to 5 years in prison
- Fine – Up to $5,000
Possession of 100 pounds or more of marijuana
- Classification – Second Degree Felony
- Sentence – 1 to 15 years in prison
- Fine – Up to $10,000
Surcharges may be added to the fines, as well as other penalties like probation and community service. Factors that can make a drug charge and sentencing more severe include possessing drugs in a school zone, and/or having intent to distribute the drugs to others.
Salt Lake County Felony Drug Court
Certain drug offenders are eligible for a program known as Drug Court. Generally, only juveniles (minors) and non-violent felony offenders can participate. Some jurisdictions admit misdemeanor offenders, such as Misdemeanor Court in Provo and Riverdale.
If a defendant can successfully finish the Drug Court program, which involves mandatory rehabilitation and compliance with other rules and restrictions, the defendant’s guilty plea will be withdrawn and the charges will be dismissed. Critically, this means the defendant does not have to go to jail. However, failure to comply with Drug Court rules can result in imprisonment and loss of the opportunity to have the plea withdrawn.
There are many Drug Court programs located throughout Utah, particularly in the First Judicial District (including Brigham City and Logan), the Second Judicial District (including Farmington and Ogden), the Third Judicial District (including Salt Lake City, Tooele, and West Jordan), and the Fourth Judicial District (including Fillmore, Heber, Nephi, and Provo).
Our Salt Lake City Drug Possession Lawyers Can Help
There are many ways to mitigate and possibly defeat a drug charge, but it is vital to start reviewing your options and building your case as soon as possible. Do not wait until you or a loved one is already in police custody – contact a drug possession defense lawyer as soon as you believe that you are under investigation. If a loved one has already been taken into custody, Darwin Overson can make an emergency visit to the county jail or holding center where he or she is being detained.
For a free and confidential legal consultation with an experienced Salt Lake City drug possession lawyer handling controlled substance charges throughout Utah, call the law offices of Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 today.