Within the Colorado Criminal Law, drugs are referred to as "controlled substances." Controlled substances are categorized into "schedules." In Colorado, the schedules are based upon the federal drug schedules. The schedule of the drug that you are accused of possessing is very important, and will determine what degree of crime it is, and what type of sentence you may get if convicted.
There are three factors which generally govern how serious the drug crime is:
- The Quantity
- The Schedule
- The Reason You Possess It
Possessing a drug for personal use is generally considered less serious than producing or manufacturing the drug, or selling the drug. The greater the amount of the drug that you have, the more likely you will be charged with possession with intent to distribute. The District Attorney will argue at trial that the amount you had was more than a person would use for themselves.
For example, in Colorado, possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana is charged as a petty offense. Generally, a person does not go to jail for a petty offense, but instead will likely be placed on probation and ordered to do public service and pay fines and court costs. However, more than 1 ounce of marijuana will lead to felony charges.
There are enhanced penalties for drug crimes in Colorado, depending on the circumstances. Facts that may lead to enhanced penalties include whether minors were used to distribute the drugs, whether the drugs were given to minors, or whether the drugs were distributed anywhere near school property.
The Fourth Amendment and Drug Cases
Your Constitutional Rights under the Fourth Amendment often come into play in drug cases. Your Fourth Amendment Rights against unlawful searches and seizures are often violated by the police when they are searching for drugs or other evidence. An experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyer can recognize whether the Constitution was followed, and may be able to get rid of, or "suppress," the evidence against you. By weakening the District Attorney’s case, your lawyer can force him to deal the case, and give you the opportunity to plead guilty to reduced charges.
You have a Constitutional right not to be searched by any member of the government, unless they have a valid reason. If the police ask you if they can search you, your’ home, your’ vehicle, and so on, then they likely have doubts about whether they have the legal right to search you. (When they have the proper legal basis already, they are not going to bother asking.) If they have a warrant, it is best to step aside and allow the search. If they don’t have a warrant, however, you have a right not to consent, and if they ask you if they can search, you should say no.