Thursday, August 26, 2010

Recent Changes in Colorado Criminal Drug Laws

Several significant changes to Colorado's criminal drug laws have now taken effect. First, the level of offense for many use or possession offenses has been reduced--unlawful use of a schedule I/II controlled substance has gone from a class 6 felony to a class two misdemeanor, while unlawful use of a schedule III/IV/V controlled substance has gone from a class 1 to a class 2 misdemeanor. Simple possession of a controlled substance has been moved to a separate statutory section to eliminate legal association with the crimes of manufacturing, dispensing, selling, distributing or possession with intent to commit same--all of which carry more severe penalties than simple possession.

The threshold quantity for unlawful possession of a schedule I/II controlled substance has increased from one gram or less to four grams or less, except for methamphetamine, where the threshold quantity is two grams or less. There is also no longer an automatic increase in felony offense class if the defendant has a prior conviction. Also, possession of schedule III/IV/V has been reduced to a misdemeanor offense (class 1).

Marijuana offense laws have also been revamped. Possession thresholds have been increased for each level of offense, with new quantity classifications set at: two ounces or less for petty offenses; more than two but not more than six ounces for a class 2 misdemeanor; more than six ounces but less than twelve ounces for a class 1 misdemeanor; more than twelve ounces for a class six felony. Second offenses pertaining to marijuana possession no longer carry mandatory elevation to felony class. Marijuana cultivation offenses have now been reclassified as follows: six or fewer plants is a class 1 misdemeanor; seven to twenty-nine plants is a class 5 felony; thirty or more plants is a class 4 felony.

The final change of note pertains to the sentencing of Special Offenders in possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a drug offense. The law now requires that in order to invoke Special Offender mandatory sentencing, the weapon must be on the defendant's person or within his immediate reach at the time of the offense, or if possessed by a confederate at the time of the offense, the defendant must have access to said weapon and the possession of such weapon must pose a risk to others or was in a vehicle occupied by the defendant at the time of the offense.

Drug offender surcharges (mandatory fees for drug convictions) have been increased and are now: $2000 for class 4 or greater felony; $1500 for class 5 felony; $1250 for class 6 felony; $1000 for class 1 misdemeanor; $600 for class 2 misdemeanor; $300 for class 3 misdemeanor; and $200 for petty offense.

These are not all the changes regarding drug offenses that have recently gone into effect, merely the most significant. When charged with a drug-related crime, the assistance of an experienced attorney is essential to understand all legal aspects of your case.