Felony Drug-Related Offenses

Interviewer: How do drug-related offenses migrate into felony territory?

The Quantity and Type of Drug in Your Possession Is a Factor in Determining a Felony Charge versus a Misdemeanor Charge

Court: Mainly it’s an issue of the amount of the drug. So, a small amount is going to be charged as a misdemeanor and possession of a large quantity of drugs can be charged as a felony. It also depends on the type of drugs. There are five different schedules of drugs, I believe.

Possession of Heroin and Methamphetamines Will Be Charged as a Felony

And so you have your hard drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine, I think they’re scheduled either one or five. They are the most severe and the reason being there’s not really any therapeutic use for those drugs. They’re just abused basically for recreational uses, and so they’re deemed to be very serious drugs.

Marijuana Possession Is Generally a Misdemeanor Charge; You Must Possess a Large Quantity for a Felony Charge

So when you have possession of one of those drugs, you’re going to be looking at a felony charge. For instance, LSD will be a third degree felony, because it’s one of those higher schedule drugs. Marijuana is not a schedule 1 drug. It’s a schedule 3, I believe. So it’s less serious. There’s some sort of medicinal qualities to it. There’s some therapeutic value. There’s actually prescription marijuana that’s used by some people sometimes. And then it’s actually legal in some states for therapeutic purposes. You have to have a large quantity of it in order for that to become a felony.

Does Utah Have Issues Where Doctors Are Writing Illegal Prescriptions?

Interviewer: How about for prescription drugs? I know some states have problems with what are called ‘pill mills.’ Doctors will wantonly prescribe prescription drugs to people and abuse them. Is Utah one of those states?

Court: Well, we don’t see too many problems with it but I have seen some cases. What I’ve seen more frequently in the news are many doctors being charged with prescribing drugs for recreational purposes, illegally. I don’t see too many people get charged with possessing or abusing a prescription drug that they have a valid, medically prescribed prescription. But, of course, if you get arrested and a police officer finds a drug that’s a prescription drug that you don’t have a prescription for, you’re definitely going to get charged with a possession charge.

Possession of a Prescription Drug without a Prescription Is Usually Charged as a Class B Misdemeanor

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That charge would be similar to a marijuana charge. It would be usually a Class B misdemeanor, unless you have a large amount of it and the charge is going to be similar to a marijuana charge. The most common drugs that I encounter in cases of possession without a prescription are Xanax, Ambien, antidepressants, and muscle relaxers.

Are ADHD Drugs, Such as Adderall Involved in Prescription Drug Abuse Cases in Utah?

Interviewer: What about like ADHD drugs?

Court: Adderall is in the news a lot in the sports world, especially recently. I haven’t really seen too many cases around here. But again, certainly if you get caught with anything that you don’t have a prescription for, it doesn’t matter what it is, you’re going to get charged with possession of a controlled substance.

You Can Face Charges for Having Even a Single Illegally Obtained Controlled Substance

Interviewer: So, even one pill that someone has loose in their pocket.

Court: Sure. If they have one pill, that’s possession under the law, and so you’re going to face a charge for it.

You Could Face Charges for Having Prescribed Medication in a Different Container

Interviewer: What if you have a prescription? However, when you are stopped you don’t have them in the bottle. You just have them with you in another receptacle. Will you still be charged with possession of a controlled substance or not?

These Are Charges That Can Usually Be Taken Care of By Your Defense Attorney

Court: Yes, you can get charged. Also, if you can’t prove to the arresting officer that you have a prescription, then you’re probably going to face a charge for it. But the good news is that’s what lawyers are for. We can get that cleared up usually. That’s one of the easier charges to take care of.

A prosecutor is going to charge you with that for that for sure, it is a 100% guarantee. But they’re not going to want to go into court and go through all those motions only to have a defense attorney turn around and produce a prescription and make them look like a fool for wasting the court’s time.

Many Times, the Charge Will Not Travel to the Trial If Your Attorney Can Have It Dropped Immediately

So, many times we can get that charge taken care of by showing the prosecutor the prescription and just having the charge dropped and taken care of right there without having to go through all that hoopla.

Your License Will Be Suspended if You Are Convicted of Drug Possession

Interviewer: Will your driver’s license be affected as well with an illegal drug or illegal possession charge?

Typically, Your Defense Attorney Can Assist in Restoring Your Driving Privileges

Court: Yes. But if you get it cleared up and the charge gets dismissed, then we can get your license situation cleared up too. So the way that works is the Driver’s License Division wants to suspend you when they receive notice of a conviction. With DUIs, there’s an automatic suspension statute. So, if you even get arrested, you don’t even need to be charged but if you just get arrested, then the DLD can suspend your driver’s license. That applies to DUI charges. It doesn’t necessarily apply to just a possession charge.

With a possession charge, you’re going to get a suspension if you are convicted. So, as soon as the Driver’s License Division receives a notice that you were convicted of a charge, then you’re looking at a license suspension. If you can get the matter cleared up without a conviction and have the charges dismissed, then you’re going to be okay as far as your license is concerned.

By Court Koehler

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