West Valley City Drug Defense Attorney
Utah has some of the strictest drug laws in the United States. As part of Utah, West Valley City takes a tough stance on prosecuting suspected drug offenders. The penalties for a conviction are harsh and include enormously expensive fines, long prison sentences, the suspension of your driver’s license, or all of the above. People who are convicted of felonies also lose other important legal privileges, like the right to own a firearm or to vote in elections. Each of these individual penalties can be devastating in their own right — and that doesn’t even begin to address the consequences that arise from having a criminal record. Your record will be visible every time a potential employer, landlord, or lending agency screens you with a background check, and having a narcotics conviction in your past can result in being passed over for jobs, denied loans, and even obstacles to where you can live.
If you’ve been arrested on drug charges, it’s a serious situation that demands immediate attention from an experienced legal representative. West Valley City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson has more than 15 years of experience handling thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases on behalf of juveniles and adults and offers free initial consultations to clients who are calling for the first time.
Call our drug defense lawyers today at (801) 758-2287 to schedule your free and private legal case analysis.
What’s the Legal Status of Marijuana in Utah?
Utah shares a border with the neighboring state of Colorado, which recently legalized the recreational use of personal quantities of marijuana, or technically the active chemical ingredient of THC. But while Colorado has adopted some of the nation’s most relaxed and lenient marijuana legislature, almost all activities relating to cannabis remain firmly illegal under Utah’s state laws as well as federal law. Accordingly, our drug defense lawyers represent many defendants in marijuana-related matters. Utah law makes all of the following acts criminal offenses:
Cultivation or Manufacture
Cultivation refers to the growing of marijuana plants. Growing Marijuana plants would fall under acts prohibited by Utah Code § 58-37-8(1), which criminalizes the manufacture of controlled substances.
Marijuana DUI (Driving Under the Influence)
You can get pulled over and charged with driving under the influence if you have marijuana in your system just like if you elected to drink and drive. This is called a “drug DUI.” However, if certain metabolites of THC are the only substance in your system and it is not affecting you, Utah Code § 41-6a-517(2)(b) prevents this from being a crime. Even though that is the law of the land, do not take that to mean that you can get high, go for a drive, and not get pulled over and arrested. This exception only applies if the metabolite is not affecting you at the moment you are driving. Utah Code § 41-6a-502(1)(b) otherwise criminalizes operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a drug that impedes your ability to safely operate the vehicle. The exception is designed to exculpate individuals who may use marijuana medicinally or had used marijuana at some point in the past but are not actually high while driving.
Possession of Paraphernalia
Utah Code § 58-37a-3 defines drug paraphernalia as anything designed or used to grow, make, store, or use drugs. The statute lists many examples of paraphernalia, including pipes, measuring scales, and “bongs.” Many of the items listed are common household items such as bowls, spoons, or blenders. In those cases, the criminalization comes from the use, not the item. So if you use a blender to make a smoothie, you do not need to worry about the police claiming it is drug paraphernalia unless you are also using it to finely chop weed.
Simple Possession (Personal Possession)
Simple possession is one of the most common drug crimes people are charged with in the state of Utah. Simple possession refers to merely having the drug in your possession. You are not off the hook if the marijuana is in your car or your closet; that also counts as “constructive” possession, versus “actual” possession is when you have the drugs on your person. Either type of possession can qualify for simple possession charges.
Simple possession has varying degrees of seriousness depending on the amount of marijuana you have. Possessing under 100 pounds of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor while possessing 100 pounds or more is a second-degree felony.
Possession with Intent to Distribute
Possession with intent to distribute is a step further than simple possession. This crime means that you were planning to, as the name would suggest, distribute marijuana to other parties. To convict you of possession with intent to distribute, the prosecution needs to have evidence that you were planning to actually distribute the controlled substance. Merely having marijuana in your possession is not enough. For example, if you have one large bag of marijuana hidden in your sock drawer with your pipe, you likely cannot be charged with possession with intent to distribute. However, if you have multiple small bags of marijuana with scales and a wad of cash, you probably can be charged with possession with intent to distribute.
Sales and Distribution
Sale and distribution means that you intended to sell marijuana for profit. This is different from possession with intent to distribute because the former does not require any money transaction or actual distribution to take place. In fact, there does not need to be a plan for a money transaction at all to be charged with the distribution of marijuana. You can still be charged with a crime if you give your friend a bag of weed as a gift. Of course, you can be charged with both possession with intent to distribute and intent to sell marijuana at the same time.
Moving marijuana from one place to another is also illegal. You could also be charged with intent to distribute if you are transporting marijuana to a location for a sale.
Other Drug Crimes in West Valley City, UT
The acts criminalized for the various acts using marijuana are also criminalized for other controlled substances. If you possess or possess with intent to distribute or sell cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, ecstasy, or any other controlled substance, you can be arrested, charged with, and convicted of a crime in Utah. The penalties for much more dangerous drugs like cocaine or heroin are significantly more severe than the penalties for possession of marijuana. The penalties for possession of any of the aforementioned drugs are uniformly felonies. Felonies have serious penalties attached to them, so it is very important to get in touch with our drug defense lawyers as soon as possible.
Seriousness of Marijuana-Related Drug Charges in West Valley City, UT
Marijuana criminal charges can range in severity from low-level misdemeanors to top-tier felonies. The way cannabis offenses are graded in Utah depends on situational factors like the amount of marijuana the alleged offense involved, whether there are signs indicating the suspect intended to sell or distribute, such as possession of weighing scales or baggies, whether the alleged offense took place in a school zone or involved minor children, and whether the suspect has a history of prior offenses.
DEA Drug Scheduling
While other factors can come into play, the criminal classification of Utah narcotics crimes is primarily based on the quantity of the drug, whether aggravated factors are present, and the associated drug “scheduling.” A schedule is essentially a tier that categorizes controlled substances. For example, Schedule I is the most serious tier and contains extremely addictive substances that do not have approved medical uses. Schedule I controlled substances include heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and methaqualone or “quaaludes.” Schedule II includes drugs that are extremely addictive but still have some medical use, like cocaine or methamphetamine. Schedule III contains less dangerous and addictive drugs than schedule II and so on down the line.
Drugs assigned lower schedule numbers are considered more dangerous and addictive than those with higher schedule numbers and are therefore typically prosecuted more aggressively. Drug scheduling is determined not by Utah but on a federal basis by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which currently classifies various substances as follows:
- Anabolic Steroids
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
- LSD (Acid)
- Marijuana (Cannabis)
Note that the above list is merely a sample of the drugs as they are scheduled in Utah. The full list of controlled substances as they are scheduled is incredibly long and contains an immense number of substances. However, many of those substances are slight chemical variations of other, similar substances on the list.
Criminal Penalties for Sales and Possession of Narcotics in West Valley City, UT
Most drug offenses fall into one of two categories: sales and distribution, or personal or “simple” possession. As a general rule, offenses involving the intent to sell, transport, distribute, or otherwise spread a substance are often categorized more severely than offenses involving personal possession, where the substance is meant for individual use only. This is because the distribution of drugs has the potential to harm multiple people, while mere personal possession and use may only harm you or people in the immediate vicinity. As mentioned above, federal scheduling also plays a significant role in categorizing criminal charges.
Defendants should also be aware that in some situations, you can legally be charged with possession even if no narcotics or paraphernalia items were actually discovered on your person. This is known as “constructive possession,” as opposed to “actual possession.” However, due to the ambiguous nature of constructive possession, these charges are often difficult for prosecutors to firmly prove in court.
Utah imposes the following maximum fines and sentences for misdemeanor and felony convictions:
Class B Misdemeanor
- Jail — 6 months
- Restitution — $1,000
Class A Misdemeanor
- Jail — 1 year
- Restitution — $2,500
All crimes graded “above” Class A Misdemeanors are considered felonies.
Third Degree Felony
- Prison — 5 years
- Restitution — $5,000
Second Degree Felony
- Prison — 15 years
- Restitution — $10,000
First Degree Felony
- Prison — Life
- Restitution — $10,000
Act Quickly if You Have Been Charged with a Drug Crime in West Valley City, UT
If you or a loved one has been arrested for possession, narcotics sales, or other related offenses in the West Valley City area, it is extremely important that you contact an attorney for legal help immediately. If prosecutors wish to charge you, they will start working on your case right away. It is imperative that you do the same. Darwin Overson and our drug lawyers will vigorously fight the charges against you, question and examine the evidence, protect your legal rights, and guide you through court hearings and other aspects of the criminal justice system.
Contact Our West Valley City, UT Drug Defense Attorneys
To schedule a completely free and confidential legal analysis with our drug defense lawyers call the law offices of Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 today. Our phone lines are open around the clock, and Darwin is available to make jail and holding center visits.