Unfortunately, heroin use, trafficking, and overdoses are a genuine crisis in the United States today. Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants. Heroin is a highly addictive and dangerous substance. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heroin-involved overdose deaths were nearly seven times higher in 2020 than in 1999. The CDC further estimates that almost 20% of all opioid deaths involved heroin.
How each state handles and treats heroin crimes is unique. Some treat heroin offenses more harshly than others. While possession of heroin is undoubtedly a crime in Colorado, it seems the legislature understands a true addiction crisis is occurring, and rather than punishing offenders harshly, they impose more reasonable sentences. A sharp criminal defense attorney could make the difference in receiving a lighter sentence focused more on recovery than punishment.
Penalty for Heroin Possession in Colorado
The penalties for possession of drugs in Colorado will depend in part on which of the five schedules the drug falls into. The Colorado legislature adopted the Uniform Controlled Substances Act to address the illegal possession, manufacturing, and distribution of substances subject to abuse and harm to users. Some have accepted medical uses and are legal if used properly, while others are always illegal. The schedule ranges from I to V, with Schedule I drugs being the most dangerous with a high risk of dependency and abuse and Schedule V being the least hazardous with a low risk of harm. Heroin, along with LSD, ecstasy, and peyote, is classified as a Schedule I drug. Heroin has no accepted medical purpose and carries an extremely high risk of dependency and abuse.
Statutory Penalties for Possession of Heroin in Colorado
With a Schedule I classification, most people would think they face severe penalties, such as significant prison time and hefty fines. However, that generally is not the case. You will likely face a more moderate sentence due to legislation enacted in March 2020 that reduced heroin possession charges from a drug felony to a level 1 misdemeanor.
Like most drug offenses, the penalties for heroin possession rest mainly on the quantity that was found on your person. Under Colorado law, possessing up to four grams of heroin will result in a level 1 drug misdemeanor.
The penalties for a level 1 misdemeanor possession of heroin under Colorado law include the following:
- Six to 18 months in jail,
- A $500 to $5,000 fine, or
- A combination of both.
At sentencing, a knowledgeable defense attorney will emphasize the need for rehabilitation rather than punishment. This could lead to a lighter or reduced sentence.
Possessing four or more grams of heroin will automatically enhance the offense to level 4 drug felony, which is punishable by:
- Up to 12 months in prison,
- Up to 12 months of parole,
- A maximum fine of up to $100,000, or
- A combination of the above.
The judge can impose a mandatory drug assessment, rehabilitation, and community service as further punishment.
It is an unfortunate but common occurrence that individuals in the throes of heroin addiction will face multiple separate offenses. If it is your third offense, the judge can sentence you to a mandatory jail term of up to 364 days. A fourth or subsequent offense will enhance the crime to a level 4 drug felony.
Collateral Consequences of Heroin Possession Conviction
A drug conviction results in a criminal record that could negatively impact many aspects of your life. A drug conviction can lead to a loss of professional licenses and affect your ability to enroll in the military, apply for a mortgage, or attend educational programs.
It can also negatively impact your:
- Your immigration status,
- Custody of your children,
- Your right to vote, and
- Your right to possess firearms.
The best way to avoid these consequences is to retain experienced defense counsel.
Other Considerations Influencing Penalties
The specific penalties will vary depending on several factors, including:
- Type of drug,
- Prior criminal convictions,
- Quantity of drugs,
- Previous drug abuse history, and
- Defendant’s intent with the drugs (i.e., for personal use vs. intending to sell to others).
The court will weigh these factors within its discretion to determine if you should be sentenced at the statutory minimum, maximum, or somewhere between.
Aggravated Heroin Possession Penalty in Colorado
Like many drug crimes, certain factors can elevate an offense in severity and lead to an aggravated sentence. In other words, the presence of certain circumstances can enhance the penalties drastically. If you committed the crime of possession under any of the following circumstances, a judge could find you guilty of aggravated heroin possession:
- You were on parole or probation,
- You were on bond awaiting sentencing following revocation of probation for another felony crime,
- You were confined to a prison or other correctional institution as a convicted felon,
- You were an escapee from any correctional institution for another felony crime,
- You were on probation for a juvenile delinquent act that would have been charged as a felony if you were an adult, or
- Any other factors the court deems to be appropriate at its discretion.
An aggravated sentence for a level 4 drug felony is punishable by up to two years in prison which is twice the amount of time as a standard level 4 felony.
Heroin Possession Attorneys
Even though the penalty for heroin possession in Colorado is generally not overly severe, it is critical to retain an experienced drug charges defense attorney upon arrest. A skilled defense attorney will ensure your rights are not violated and help you assert the best possible defense to the charges. At Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C., our attorneys have decades of experience advocating for clients accused of an array of drug crimes. We understand each case is unique and prioritize fighting for your rights and freedom no matter the circumstances. Contact us for a free case review to get started on your defense!