Many people think of drugs or controlled substances as highly addictive and dangerous substances. However, not all drugs are created equal. Some drugs are more addictive than others, and other drugs are designed to help rather than harm. Prescription drugs are intended as part of medical treatments, but possessing them without a valid prescription may be illegal. Some prescription drugs can be very dangerous if misused or abused. Your exact charges may vary depending on multiple factors surrounding your case.
Charges for illegal prescription drug possession in Utah can range from relatively minor misdemeanors to serious felonies. Prescription drugs, much like illicit controlled substances, can be classified according to Utah’s drug schedules. A prescription drug classified as more serious, such as a Schedule I substance, may be met with harsher charges than a Schedule V prescription drug. You could face a few months to several years behind bars depending on your situation.
If you are facing charges for illegal prescription drug possession, contact our offices for assistance immediately. Our Utah criminal defense lawyers can review your charges and determine what kind of penalties you might be facing. We can also help you determine the best way to fight your charges.
Schedule a free consultation with our Utah drug crime defense lawyers at Overson Law, PLLC by calling (801) 758-2287 to speak with our team about your case today.
Do Illegal and Prescription Drugs Face the Same Criminal Charges in Utah?
The Utah Controlled Substances Act, Utah Code § 58-37-8, contains a number of provisions that criminalize the possession of certain kinds of drugs, medications, and controlled substances. Some of these substances are illicit drugs that are always illegal to have. Other substances included in the statute are prescription drugs that may be lawfully possessed if you have a valid prescription. Illegal and prescription drugs may face similar or different charges depending on how they are classified. The more dangerous the drug, the more serious your charges can be.
Specifically, the statute makes it a crime for anyone to possess a controlled substance or a synthetic controlled substance unless they have a valid prescription. 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 medications. 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 potential for medicinal purposes. As the schedules increase, they become less addictive and have a higher therapeutic value. 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. Call our Utah prescription drug possession attorneys for assistance.
Schedules of Controlled Substances in Utah
The state of Utah classifies all drugs and controlled substances into “schedules” or tiers. These categories are Schedule I through Schedule V, with Schedule V being the least criminalized and Schedule I being the most dangerous and most heavily criminalized. Utah’s drug schedules can be found in Utah Code § 58-37.4.
Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous and heavily criminalized controlled substances in Utah. These drugs are incredibly addictive, have dangerous and potentially fatal side effects, and are not recognized to have much in the way of value for medical treatment. Drugs like heroin, LSD, marijuana/cannabis, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (more commonly known as ecstasy), and peyote are all considered Schedule I drugs.
Schedule II controlled substances still have a very high potential to be abused and are also very addictive. However, unlike Schedule I drugs, Schedule II drugs will often have accepted medical uses, so they may be administered by medical professionals in a hospital setting or, in some cases, given as a prescription. Examples of Schedule II controlled substances are cocaine, morphine, methamphetamine, Adderall, and fentanyl.
Schedule III drugs are yet another step less dangerous than Schedule II drugs. While there is certainly some chance of getting addicted to and abusing Schedule III substances, it is significantly less than the addictiveness of Schedule II or I drugs. Ketamine, anabolic steroids, and administered testosterone are examples of Schedule III controlled substances.
Schedule IV controlled substances have a low risk of addiction/dependence. Examples include Xanax, Ambien, and Valium.
Schedule five is the least criminalized and least addictive schedule of controlled substances. Generally, these are over-the-counter medications and not prescription drugs.
What Are the Prescription Drug Possession Penalties in Utah?
Every simple drug possession crime is filed under § 58-37-8(2) of the Utah Controlled Substances Act, but there are multiple subsections dealing with different drugs.. The two main drug crimes that are most commonly prosecuted are simple possession and possession with intent to distribute. “Simple possession” means that you merely have the drug on your person, while possession with intent to distribute indicates selling or manufacturing of the drug.
Simple Possession 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. To prove simple possession, you have to both possess the substance and have knowledge that it is a drug. For example, if your friend asks you to “store their weed” and you have it in your pocket, you can be convicted of simple possession of a controlled substance.
Possession With Intent to Distribute
Possession with Intent to distribute is a much more serious crime. To be convicted of PWID, there needs to be evidence that you intended to sell the drugs or give them to people who would. An example of evidence indicating intent to distribute would be a pile of cocaine bricks labeled “bring to ‘the place’ on Friday.”
Possible Charges for Prescription Drug Possession
The charges for the illegal possession of prescription drugs will vary based on what kind of drugs were involved. Possession of a Schedule I drug, even one that may be lawfully obtained with a prescription, will be punished more harshly than the illegal possession of a Schedule V drug.
If you are charged with the illegal possession of a Schedule I or II prescription drug, you may be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor for your first and second convictions. A third or subsequent conviction may result in charges for third-degree felonies. Any subsequent violation must occur within seven years of your first two convictions.
If you are charged with the illegal possession of any prescription drugs classified as Schedule III, IV, or V, you may be convicted of a Class B misdemeanor. This may also include the unlawful possession of marijuana. These charges can be upgraded to Class A misdemeanors for a third offense within seven years of your first two offenses. The charges will be upgraded again to a third-degree felony for a fourth or subsequent conviction.
Possible Penalties for Prescription Drug Possession
Charges for illegally possessing a prescription drug may include a felony in some cases or a misdemeanor in others. How you are charged will depend on factors unique to your case, such as the type and quantity of the alleged drug.
If you are charged with a Class B misdemeanor for the possession of Schedule III, IV, or V prescription drugs, you may face penalties including up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If your charges are upgraded to Class A misdemeanors, your penalties may include up to 364 days in jail and a fine of no more than $2,500. Keep in mind that multiple counts or charges may mean multiple penalties, so your total penalties could be more than mentioned here.
If you are charged with a third-degree felony for the illegal possession of prescription drugs, you could face up to 5 years in prison. You may also have to pay fines of up to $5,000. For help understanding the possible penalties in your case, call our Park City Drug Possession lawyers.
Manufacturing Prescription Drugs in Utah
It is also a crime to manufacture prescription drugs or copies of them in Utah. Utah Code § 58-37-8(1). Penalties for manufacturing drugs will vary depending on the schedule of the drug. For example, the penalty for manufacturing Schedule III or IV drugs, many of which are prescription drugs, is a third-degree felony. Additionally, manufacturing prescription drugs while in possession of a firearm can increase the prison sentence for the crime by up to five years.
Defending Yourself Against Charges for Illegal Prescription Drug Possession in Utah
People are often confused when they learn that the possession of prescription drugs may be a criminal offense. After all, prescriptions are given to us by doctors so we can treat medical conditions and illnesses. However, these drugs can still be abused if used incorrectly or excessively taken. In fact, there is a large market for illicit prescription drugs. The possession of prescription drugs is only illegal if the defendant does not have a valid prescription. Therefore, one of the most effective ways to fight these charges is to present proof of a valid prescription. That being said, if you have a prescription, you cannot go ahead and start handing out your drugs to other people and expect not to be convicted of a crime. In that case, you could be convicted of possession with intent to distribute.
A valid prescription must come from a properly licensed and authorized physician or medical professional. Obtaining leftover medication from a friend who no longer needs it may not feel like a crime, but it is absolutely not legal. If you used a forged or faked prescription, you will not only be stuck with your illegal possession charges, but you may face new charges for the forgery.
It may also be a defense if you did not know your possession of the prescription drugs was illegal. For example, perhaps you obtained what you thought was a valid prescription to obtain important medication. However, unbeknownst to you, the doctor who issued your prescription was not licensed or authorized to issue a prescription. This would make your prescription invalid. You could defend yourself by arguing you believed that the prescription was legitimate and that you needed the medication.
The best defense for any given defendant will vary from case to case. In some cases, we can fight your charges with proof of a valid prescription. In other cases, we may need to get a bit more creative. Contact our Provo criminal defense lawyers for help with your charges. 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. Our Utah illegal prescription drug possession attorneys can help.
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