A drug-related crime can have a severely negative impact on your life if prosecuting attorneys achieve a conviction in a Colorado criminal court. This is a topic that the state takes very seriously; therefore, the penalties for such crimes are quite tough. One of the most commonly seen drug crimes in the state is possession, either for personal use or intent to distribute. If you are facing accusations of carrying an illegal substance, you may face charges at the state and/or federal level.
So, how do you know if your case will be a state or federal matter? What are the potential penalties of a possessions charge? Finally, what defense strategies are available?
When does a possession charge become a federal matter?
Drug possession charges are typically either filed as simple or intent to distribute. A simple possession charge means that you allegedly had just a small amount of a drug for your own personal use. An intent to distribute charge, however, means that you were caught carrying a large quantity of a drug or drugs for the purpose of selling to others. The filling of either of these charges can occur at the state or federal level. It all really depends on what type of drug you are accused of carrying and how much.
Here are some examples:
- Police arrest a 21-year-old male who was carrying three ounces of marijuana without a medical prescription. This results in a simple possession charge. This is generally a misdemeanor crime, handled at the state level.
- An officer arrests a 35-year-old female for carrying 15 grams of cocaine. The charge filed against her is possession with the intent to distribute. Distribution of this particular drug is typically considered a federal offense.
- Police arrest a 42-year-old male after searching his home and finding heroin, scales, bags and a large sum of cash. As a result, he now faces possession with intent to distribute, manufacturing and drug paraphernalia charges. The drug type, amount in possession and combination of other charges typically means the filing of charges will take place at the federal level.
Your legal counsel will be able to tell you if the charges against you are at the state or federal level.
The penalties associated with possessions charges are all over the board. They include jail time, imprisonment, court ordered rehabilitation and fines — among various others. The duration of one’s incarceration and the fine amount ordered will all depend on the drug type and quantity.
After a careful review of your case, your attorney will be able to provide the defense strategies that are available to you. Some of the most commonly used defenses in possession cases include:
- Unlawful search and seizure: If you claim this, you are basically saying that the only reason police found drugs was because you were the victim of an illegal search.
- Drugs are not yours: There are various incidents in which you could claim that the drugs are not yours, such as you simply being a passenger in a car or you being unaware of the drugs in the home you share with someone else.
- Entrapment: Law enforcement officials often conduct sting operations in order to catch people in the act of committing criminal offenses. When an undercover agent talks a person into committing a crime, this is entrapment and a reason to have one’s case dismissed or charges reduced.
Again, the details of your case will matter when it comes to selecting a defense strategy that will best serve your interests.
Go with experience
A drug possession charge, whether filed at a state or federal level, can have significant consequences. Let an experienced criminal defense attorney help you fight to achieve the best outcome possible for your circumstances.