Most people have been prescribed drugs by their doctor at some point in their lifetime. Prescription drugs can be potent and addictive, necessitating prescriptions and regulation. Generally, prescription narcotics are lawful if legally obtained and used as prescribed. However, a prescription drug unlawfully obtained poses a risk of criminal charges. In Colorado, a possession drug charge for an illegal prescription carries the potential for significant penalties. If you are facing a possession charge for a prescription drug, contact our attorneys at Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C., to get started on your defense.
Colorado’s unlawful possession of a controlled substance statute governs the illegal possession of a prescription drug. Prescription drugs, like street drugs, are classified into schedules according to their addictiveness and potential for abuse.
- Schedule I drugs: Very high risk of addiction and abuse with no accepted legal use (e.g., heroin).
- Schedule II drugs: Also pose a high risk of addiction, but some have recognized medical uses, such as oxycodone or morphine.
- Schedule III drugs: Moderate risk of dependency and abuse and also have some accepted medical use when legally prescribed (e.g., codeine, anabolic steroids).
- Schedule IV drugs: Commonly prescribed drugs with minimal potential for abuse, including clonazepam, diazepam, Valium, and other sedatives.
- Schedule V drugs: Over-the-counter drugs with a meager potential for abuse and dependency.
As you can see, prescription drugs are typically categorized into schedule II, III, or IV. When you possess these drugs without a legal prescription, you expose yourself to criminal charges. If you were caught with an illegal prescription drug, you might wonder which category it falls into and what your potential penalties might be. If so, give us a call. We are happy to answer your questions and provide a better explanation of the charges and penalties.
Unlawful Possession of a Prescription Drug Penalties
Charges for drug possession without a lawful prescription can result in steep penalties. These penalties vary widely depending on several factors and range from small fines to lengthy jail time.
The three most influential factors determining penalties are:
- The type of drug,
- The quantity of the drug, and
- The defendant’s prior criminal history.
Keep in mind that for certain offenses, there are statutory minimum penalties (i.e., the least amount of incarceration time and monetary fine you could be sentenced to under the law).
Unlawful Possession of Prescription Drug Penalties
In Colorado, it is a level one misdemeanor if you possess illegal prescription drugs as follows:
- Four grams or less of Schedule II prescription drugs,
- Schedule III drugs, and
- Schedule IV drugs.
If convicted, you could be sentenced to 6 to 18 months in jail, a $500 to $5,000 fine, or both. The exact sentence varies depending on individual circumstances, including prior convictions.
Possession of an unlawful prescription drug increases to a level 4 felony if you possess more than four grams of Schedule II prescription drugs. A level 4 felony conviction can result in a minimum jail sentence of 6 months, but the maximum is up to 1 year in prison. It can also result in a fine between $1,000 and $100,000. The court can also impose other punishments, such as mandatory drug assessment, rehabilitation, and community service.
No matter the offense, there are collateral consequences and statutory penalties. A drug conviction carries a negative stigma and can lead to judgment by family, peers, and your community. A conviction may also make it challenging to obtain or keep a job.
Depending on the circumstances, it is not uncommon to be charged with several offenses relating to unlawful possession of prescription drugs. Related crimes that are often charged together include the following:
- Forging prescriptions,
- Altering prescriptions,
- Stealing a prescription pad from a licensed physician, and
- Filling prescriptions in someone else’s name for your use.
You may also face charges for the sale, intent to sell, or manufacture of said drugs. Depending on the quantity of drugs and the type of packaging (e.g., individual bags), you might face distribution charges. For instance, if you have hundreds of Oxycodone pills packaged in separate bags in small quantities, it may lead law enforcement to believe you intended to sell the drugs.
If you are facing a prescription drug charge, the first step to combat the accusations is to seek the advice of a prescription drug crime attorney. Drug charges are prosecuted harshly in Colorado. However, it is common to have one or more possible defenses. Every situation is unique, and any applicable defense will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Common defenses include the following:
- A violation of your constitutional rights (i.e., illegal search or seizure or police failure to read Miranda warnings before taking your statement);
- You had a valid prescription for the drugs;
- You did not know the drug was illegal;
- You were falsely accused;
- Mistaken identity;
- The drugs did not belong to you; and
- Entrapment by the government (i.e., you had no prior inclination to commit such a crime until law enforcement induced you).
Remember, prosecutors have the burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
They will often rely on several pieces of evidence, including:
- The drugs;
- The police report and officer testimony;
- Forensic expert analysis and testimony;
- Video recordings, including dash or body cam footage; and
- Recorded communications (e.g., texts and voicemails).
Upon reviewing the evidence, we will work with you to devise the most robust possible defense to get the charges outright dismissed, downgraded, or win an acquittal at trial. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers at Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C. are prepared to fight on your behalf.
Contact Our Lawyers Today
Whether you had a brief lapse in judgment or are struggling with a prescription drug addiction, charges for drug possession without a lawful prescription can be devastating. At Gerash Steiner Blanton, we understand how challenging this time in your life is. We provide each client with individualized and personal attention, even if that means giving them our cell phone numbers. With decades of experience practicing criminal defense in Colorado, we know how to defend even the harshest drug offenses. We have the legal knowledge, experience, and local resources to obtain the best possible outcome for you and your family. Contact us for a free initial consultation!