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statute of limitations on drug charges

Almost any drug charge can lead to a variety of consequences for the accused. Still, the statute of limitations for drug charges prevents the state from charging you for violations that occurred in the distant past. The length of the limitation period on drug charges depends on the specific crime you were charged with. 

If you’re facing charges for a crime you committed long ago, an experienced criminal charges defense attorney can help determine whether the drug crime statute of limitations has expired. Contact Gerash Steiner & Blanton, P.C., today to schedule a free consultation regarding your case.

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations lays out the period of time when a prosecutor can bring charges against a defendant for committing a criminal violation. After the statute of limitations expires—unless some exception applies—the law prohibits the prosecution of the defendant. The statute of limitations protects a defendant’s right to a fair trial by ensuring they can find relevant witnesses for their case. Additionally, the statute of limitations prevents prosecutors from holding the threat of prosecution over an individual indefinitely. Colorado’s rules surrounding the statute of limitations appear in the Colorado Revised Statutes, specifically at C.R.S. 16-5-401.

Remember, the statute of limitations requires the prosecutor to file the criminal charges before the expiration of the time limit. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll go to trial or even receive a plea offer within the time limit. In many cases, it can take months or even years to conclude a criminal case. Thus for purposes of the statute of limitations, the prosecutor must simply file the charges to begin the criminal proceeding. Wrapping up an entire criminal case within the statutory period occurs very rarely.

How Long is Colorado’s Statute of Limitations?

The length of Colorado’s statute of limitations depends on the particular crime. The most serious Colorado criminal violations do not have a statute of limitations at all. These crimes include:

  • First and second-degree murder;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Any sexual offense against a child; 
  • Treason; or
  • Attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit any of these crimes.

However, most other crimes, including drug crimes, have a statutory period after which the prosecution can no longer bring charges.

Colorado Felonies

In Colorado, possession of more than four grams of a schedule I or II drug typically amounts to a felony possession charge. Additionally, Colorado considers the sale of controlled substances and the manufacture of imitation drugs to be felonies as well. For most felony offenses, Colorado imposes a three-year statute of limitations.

Colorado Misdemeanors

Possession of fewer than four grams of a controlled substance usually amounts to a misdemeanor in Colorado. For misdemeanor drug charges, the statute of limitations runs for eighteen months. That means that after eighteen months have passed, you generally can no longer face charges for the alleged violation.

Colorado Petty Offenses

Colorado defines three different violations as petty drug offenses:

  1. Possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana,
  2. Possession of drug paraphernalia, and
  3. Keeping prescribed drugs in an unauthorized container without the ability to show legal ownership.

A petty drug crime receives a six-month statute of limitations in Colorado.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations on Drug Charges

For some crimes, the time limit for the statute of limitations begins once the criminal wrongdoing is discovered. However, that is not the case for drug crimes. The time limit to prosecute drug charges begins when the violation is committed.

However, the statute of limitations tolls, or pauses, if the defendant leaves the State of Colorado. After five years, the statute of limitations expires whether the defendant leaves Colorado or not.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me? 

Dealing with a drug charge is never easy, but you don’t have to defend yourself. In reality, having an attorney in your corner is one of the best things you can do to strengthen your defense and help achieve a positive outcome. 

Still not convinced? Here are a few important ways in which having an experienced defense attorney can benefit your case. A criminal charges defense lawyer can help you: 

  • Determine and assess potential defenses to your drug charge, 
  • Gather crucial evidence to support your defense, 
  • Interview witnesses who may be able to testify for you, 
  • Manage your case to better ensure that you don’t miss any important deadlines, 
  • Negotiate a potential plea deal with the prosecutor on our case, and 
  • Prepare for and take our case to trial when necessary. 

Understanding the statute of limitations for drug charges is certainly an important part of your criminal defense case. However, this is only one piece of a complicated legal process. Thus, make sure you have someone on your side who can help you at every step along the way. 

Need Help Understanding Colorado’s Statute of Limitations on Drug Charges? Contact an Attorney Today

The statute of limitations can confuse even the most savvy defendants, especially if you’ve never dealt with the criminal justice system. But don’t worry, our team of lawyers at Gerash Steiner & Blanton are here to help. Attorney Daniel Gerash has represented thousands of criminal defendants throughout his 30-year law career. Many of these cases involved a statute of limitations issue. We have the knowledge and experience necessary to guide you through your criminal case, whether the statute of limitations has expired or not.

Mr. Gerash holds membership with the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He has also earned an AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell, achieving the highest possible rating in both legal ability and ethical standards. At Gerash Steiner & Blanton, we are committed to upholding the legacy of now-retired Colorado legal icon Walter L. Gerash by providing zealous advocacy to individuals facing criminal allegations. Contact our criminal defense firm today so we can get started on your case.

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