What Are the Charges for Illegal Prescription Drug Possession in UT?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Possession of any controlled substances without a prescription in Utah is against the law.  Some drugs are always illegal, and no doctor would ever write you a prescription to carry them.  Other drugs are common, over-the-counter drugs which no one needs a prescription to possess legally.  Many people run into trouble with the law over prescription drugs.  These are legal with a valid prescription, but anyone else can face serious criminal charges for possessing the drugs.  Salt Lake City drug possession defense lawyer Darwin Overson of Overson Law, PLLC explains the charges for prescription drug crimes and when they come into play.  If you or a loved one was charged with illegal possession of a prescription drug, contact our law offices today at (801) 758-2287.

Do Illegal and Prescription Drugs Have the Same Criminal Charges?

Utah Code § 58-37-8 contains a number of drug crimes that take effect throughout Utah.  There are multiple subsections of the statute that criminalize different aspects of drug crimes.  The first deals primarily with possession with the intent to deliver, the second deals with simple possession, the third deals with prescription issues, and the fourth deals with upgraded penalties for certain issues.

The drug possession statute is a catch-all statute that makes it generally illegal to possess any controlled substance.  This includes both illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine as well as prescription drugs.  Specifically, the statute (Utah Code § 58-37-8(2)(a)) makes it a crime “for any person knowingly and intentionally to possess or use a controlled substance analog or a controlled substance, unless it was obtained under a valid prescription or order.”  The statute goes on to say that the prescription must have come from a medical professional as part of their practice.

A “controlled substance” includes many drugs that are not over-the-counter medication.  These drugs are split into multiple “schedules,” which are named Schedule I through Schedule V.  Schedule I contains the most serious drugs, which have the highest potential for abuse and the least medical effectiveness.  As the schedules increase, they become less addictive and have a higher therapeutic value.  For instance, many common drugs are Schedule III or IV drugs, including:

  • Codeine,
  • Suboxone,
  • Ketamine,
  • Anabolic steroids,
  • Xanax,
  • Valium, and
  • Ativan.

Placing a drug on these schedules ensures that access to these drugs is limited to only those with prescriptions – or else possessors could be charged with a crime.  Regardless of which schedule the drug is on, you could face the same charges for possession.  The charges are typically scaled depending on the drug’s schedule, but they are charged under the same statute.  This means that charges for prescription drugs look very similar to charges for illicit drugs.

Penalties for Prescription Drug Possession

Every simple drug possession crime is filed under Utah Code § 58-37-8(2), but there are multiple subsections dealing with different drugs.  “Simple possession,” first of all, is possession of a drug without indication that you intend to sell, distribute, manufacture, or otherwise create or transfer the drugs.  This is a lighter offense than possession with the intent to distribute (PWID) or drug trafficking charges, which punish the trade aspect as well as the possession.

The primary charges based on the type of drug punish possession of any of the following drugs:

  • Over 100lbs of marijuana, which is a second degree felony;
  • A Schedule I or II substance, which is a class A misdemeanor (or a third degree felony for a 3rd or subsequent conviction);
  • Another controlled substance, which is a class B misdemeanor (or a class A misdemeanor for a 3rd conviction and a third degree felony for a 4th or subsequent conviction).

There are different charges and penalties for being caught with drugs in your body (either by consumption or by smuggling) and still others for certain other related issues.

These crimes are classified under various levels of crime, which hold different penalties.  In Utah, crimes are classified as either felonies or misdemeanors, with felonies carrying the potential of over a year in prison and misdemeanors having up to a year in jail.  These are further broken down into different levels, such that the crimes fall under one of these classifications:

  • First degree felonies carry prison sentences of 5 years to life and fines up to $10,000.
  • Second degree felonies carry prison sentences of 1 to 15 years and fines up to $10,000.
  • Third degree felonies carry prison sentences of 0 to 5 years and fines up to $5,000.
  • Class A misdemeanors carry jail sentences of up to one year and fines up to $2,500.
  • Class B misdemeanors carry jail sentences of up to 6 months and fines up to $1,000.
  • Class C misdemeanors carry jail sentences of up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $750.

Many of these crimes are class B misdemeanors through second degree felonies, which can mean serious penalties even for lower level offenses.

Salt Lake City, Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys with Free Consultations

If you or a loved one was charged with a drug possession crime dealing with prescription drugs, it is important to talk to a criminal defense attorney about your case.  These charges are often as serious as many other drug crimes and could carry serious consequences.  Call a Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer at Overson Law today at (801) 985-3143.