In Utah, drug possession is illegal. A few years ago, the governor passed HB348, referred to as the "Justice Reinvestment Initiative," which lessened the penalties for some drug-related offenses – drug possession being one of those. And while the new legislation resulted in some possession offenses being charged as misdemeanors, others are felonies. Which level may be levied in your case depends on several factors. We'll explore those in this blog.
Utah's Drug Schedules
Before delving into the specifics of Utah's drug possession statutes, it's beneficial to have an understanding of how drugs are classified. Criminal charges (and potential penalties) are determined by what class the controlled substance is in.
Drugs are grouped into schedules: I, II, III, IV, and V. The substances considered the most dangerous are included in Schedule I, and the drugs considered least dangerous are in Schedule V.
Several factors determine what schedule a controlled substance will be in, including:
- The probability of addiction and abuse,
- The drug's medical use, and
- The potential for psychological and physical dependency
Potential Charges Levied in a Drug Possession Case
The charges you could face for drug possession depend on the schedule the substance is in, whether or not you have any prior drug-related convictions, and, in some cases, the amount of drugs you allegedly had in your possession.
The charges are as follows:
- Possession of 100 pounds or more of marijuana: Second-degree felony
- Possession of a Schedule I or II substance:
- First or second offense: Class A misdemeanor
- Third or subsequent offense within 7 years of the prior: Third-degree felony
- Possession of a Schedule III, IV, or V substance:
- First or second offense: Class B misdemeanor
- Third offense: Class A misdemeanor
- Fourth or subsequent offense within 7 years of the prior: Third-degree felony
Charges Can Increase By One Degree
In some cases, a drug possession offense can be charged at one degree higher than it normally would be. This means that a misdemeanor drug possession charge could potentially be increased to a felony. The factors that determine whether or not this occurs include the nature of a prior conviction and where you were when you were caught with drugs allegedly in your possession.
The circumstances in which the higher degree provision applies include:
- When you are currently charged with drug possession and you have a previous conviction for producing, manufacturing, or dispensing a controlled substance or possession with intent; and
- When the drug possession offense occurred on the property of a correctional facility