Drug Offenses in Utah
Southern Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys
Common drug charges in Utah involve drug possession and drug distribution of substances including marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine. If you have been charged with a drug offense, the criminal defense attorneys of Douglas D. Terry & Associates have the experience and knowledge to advise you of your rights and help you mount your strongest defense. Learn more below about drug crimes or contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.
Each state and the federal government have laws against the unlawful use, manufacture and distribution of drugs. The purpose of these laws is to reduce the unlawful consumption of drugs, reduce drug-related crimes and severely punish repeat offenders and major drug dealers.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which monitors crime and punishment in the United States and around the world, the great majority of drug offenders who are incarcerated under mandatory sentencing laws are nonviolent men and women. These offenders are often convicted of low-level drug-related offenses. They may spend years in prison. "Whether repeat or first-time offenders," notes a HRW report, "whether convicted of possession, sale, possession with intent to sell or attempted sale, most of these offenders are guilty of minor crimes for which they should be held accountable - but for whom prison is a misguided sentence."
- One in four imprisoned drug offenders is convicted of simply possessing drugs
- Most drug offenders are nonviolent
- Most minimum sentences range from one year in jail to three years in prison for first-time offenders; and three years to 12 years in prison for second or repeat offenders
Over the past few decades, the declared "war on drugs" has failed to end substance abuse, but it has succeeded in punishing many Americans who might otherwise lead productive lives. A felony conviction, even for a minor drug offense, is a heavy burden for anyone going back into the job market. And while it is difficult to determine in advance the exact sentence an alleged drug offender faces, rarely does a defendant get off lightly without the benefit of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Federal drug statutes establish schedules of controlled substances, defining and classifying illegal drugs. The Attorney General has the authority to delete, add, or re-schedule substances according to certain criteria. State schedules refer to, or are based upon, federal schedules. Drugs included on these schedules are referred to as "Controlled Dangerous Substances" (CDSs).
Punishment for Drug Crimes
The seriousness of and ultimate punishment for drug crimes generally depends upon:
- The quantity of the drug
- Its classification under the schedules
- The purpose of its possession
Producing, manufacturing, and selling illegal drugs are the most serious drug crimes. For example, a person "dealing" (selling) five or more ounces of heroin or cocaine may be imprisoned for more than 10 years. Possession of drugs with the intent to distribute is also a serious crime. The intent to distribute may be inferred from the quantity of the drug, without any evidence of actual distribution.
In most states, possession of drugs for personal use is a serious crime. But in some states, possession of drugs for personal use is punished less severely than distribution crimes. For example, in some states, possession of a small amount of marijuana (less than 50 grams) is decriminalized or treated as a disorderly person's offense. A person convicted of a disorderly person's offense is generally not imprisoned, but may be placed on probation or ordered to pay a fine. However, possession of a larger quantity of marijuana or other drug, even if for personal use, is treated as a serious crime.
Some states have enhanced penalties for drug crimes. These penalties go into effect if:
- Minors are used to distribute the drugs
- The drugs are delivered or sold to minors
- The drugs are sold or distributed on school property
Enhanced punishments vary from state to state. Forfeiture of property is also used as an additional punishment to deter drug crimes. For example, if your house is used to make and distribute drugs, the government may be able to seize your house.
Consult with Our Experienced Southern Utah Drug Crimes Defense Attorneys
Our criminal defense attorneys assist with all aspects of defending Utah drug charges, from negotiating with the local prosecutor to representing you at trial or arguing for the best possible sentencing conditions. We are the longest serving criminal defense law firm in St. George, Utah, and also have offices in Cedar City. We work with clients throughout southern Utah in communities including Richfield, Panguitch, Kanab, Beaver and Fillmore.
Read more below about types of Utah drug offenses. Or learn more about how our defense attorneys can help you. Call (435) 628-4411 or contact us online today for a free consultation.