Criminal Penalties for Utah Drug Crimes
The possible penalties for a controlled substance conviction depends on the level of crime being charged. The Utah Controlled Substance Act (Utah Code 58-37-8) controls how each crime should be charged. Charges run from Misdemeanor B (like for possession less than one ounce of marijuana) all the way up to a First Degree Felony for possession with intent to distribute a Schedule I controlled substance.
The maximum criminal penalties are as follows:
- Misdemeanor B: up to 6 months jail time and up to $1,000 in fines.
- Misdemeanor A: up to 1 year jail time and up to $2,500 in fines.
- 3rd Degree Felony: 0-5 years prison time and up to $5,000 in fines.
- 2nd Degree Felony: 1-15 years prison time and up to $10,000 in fines.
- 1st Degree Felony: 5 years-life in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Of course the maximums are much different than the “average” criminal penalty. If you’ve been caught with less than one ounce of marijuana and it’s your first offense, you are almost certainly not going to go to jail for 6 months, or probably at all. However, a criminal conviction is nothing to take lightly, as even a minor one has collateral consequences (described below).
Your Utah Driver’s License
A conviction for any of the crimes listed under the Utah Controlled Substance Act will result in the suspension of your Utah Driver’s License (or, if you have an out-of-state driver’s license, it will result in the suspension of your Utah Driving “Privilege”). This is certainly one of the most serious collateral consequences of a drug conviction in Utah, as many people need their license to get to work or school. It’s also something they don’t tell you about in court (usually) because it’s not technically part of the “criminal” penalties. It is very real though. There are some ways to try and avoid this license suspension, which is a good reason to contact us about your case.
Your Criminal Record
Any criminal conviction can limit your career opportunities, your schooling, and your housing options, for instance. Utah does allow you to “expunge” or seal the record of your criminal convictions, but there’s a waiting period of several years. However, getting your case dismissed means that you are eligible to expunge all records of the case after only a 30-day wait.
Possible Defenses to a Controlled Substance Charge
In a drug case, the admissibility in court of the drugs themselves is usually a key part of the case, so getting the evidence suppressed can result in a dismissal of the charges. Since cases often begin with a search or seizure, showing that the police violated the 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure results in the dismissal of many drug cases. Further, since drug cases often revolve around the “confession” of the suspect, the 5th Amendment is frequently at play at well.
There’s also the issue of possession. When drugs are found in a car, for instance, often everyone in that car is charged with possession, but in Utah, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant both knew about and intended to exercise “dominion and control” over the drugs.
Obviously, these are complicated legal issues for which it’s important to have a good defense attorney helping you out.
What to Do If You’ve Been Charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance in Utah
As explained above, even a minor criminal conviction for Possession of a Controlled Substance can have some very real collateral consequences, so getting the best result you possibly can in your criminal case is effort well-spent.
I’d encourage you to contact us immediately so we can begin our defense of your case. I offer free, confidential consultations, so there’s nothing to lose by discussing it with me.
Contact us today.