Illegal drug possession is one of the most common charges in Utah criminal courts. State law gives strict penalties for convictions. Because of the high number of cases and the serious consequences involved, prosecutors work hard to push through drug cases as fast as possible.
If you have been charged with drug possession, this will sometimes work in your favor, and will sometimes work against you. It can work in your favor because you and your drug possession attorney can take the time to really get to know the case and come in to court prepared, in a position of strength. It can work against you because even if you are innocent, the prosecutor and the judge will often see you as “just another user” and you will get pushed through the system along with everybody else.
Drug Possession Defense Law
Utah law states that it is illegal for a person to “knowingly and intentionally” possess any “controlled substance” unless it is through a lawful medical prescription.
The law defines many different types of controlled substances and categorizes them into different categories according to how dangerous a drug is perceived to be, how addictive the substance is, and if the drug has any proven medical use. The categories range from Roman numerals I to V, with I being the most severe. Schedule I includes drugs like Ecstacy (MDMA), and heroin. The next category is schedule II, which includes drugs like cocaine, meth, (methamphetamine), and many prescription drugs. Schedule III includes steroids and schedule IV includes codeine and opium. (Strangely, marijuana is classified as a schedule I drug, but it is treated differently than other schedule I drugs by Utah criminal law.)
Utah law also says that drug possession can also include what is called “constructive possession,” which usually happens when a person has an illegal substance in a car or home, and other people in the car or home know about it and do not specifically disclaim it. In these cases, a person can be found guilty even though he/she never bought, used, or actually possessed the drug.
Drug Possession Penalties
There are two types of penalties that come with drug possession convictions—criminal penalties and “collateral consequences.” Criminal penalties are the penalties given by the judge as punishment for the crime. Collateral consequences are consequences that result from the conviction going onto your criminal record.
Criminal penalties can include: