December 9, 2023
Although Colorado has led the way in leniency towards recreational cannabis use, possession and trafficking of other controlled substances is still very much illegal. In fact, judges and prosecution often ask for the maximum possible penalty – and in some cases judges exceed what is recommended by prosecution.
That’s exactly what happened recently to a Pueblo man. Prosecution recommended that the defendant convicted of selling heroin on the streets be sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. However, Federal judge Raymond Moore was not satisfied with this length of sentence, and vehemently insisted that the man be sentenced to four years in prison.
This story is a reminder both of the leeway judges have in determining sentencing, and also of the importance of putting together the best possible defense for drug crimes to help avoid or minimize penalties.
Below, we’re going to break down the statutory consequences for heroin distribution, then look at some possible defense strategies.
Colorado Penalties for Heroin Distribution
The use, possession, and distribution of heroin is illegal in Colorado. The exact penalty depends on the amount of heroin in possession, if there is evidence of intent to distribute, and if the defendant has any prior drug crime convictions.
Heroin distribution penalties are as follows:
- Up to 14g: Level 3 drug felony punishable by 2-6 years in prison and $2,000-$500,000 in fines.
- 14-225g: Level 2 drug felony punishable by 4-16 years in prison and $4,000-$750,000 in fines.
- Over 225g: Level 1 drug felony punishable by 8-32 years in prison and $5,000-$1,000,000 in fines.
Common Drug Crime Defense Strategies
In order to convict a defendant of drug distribution, prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly was in possession of and intended to distribute a controlled substance. Drug crime defenses therefore hinge on whether evidence was obtained legally and whether the defendant committed or had intent to commit the act. Some options may be:
Illegal Search and Seizure
The primary evidence for any drug trafficking case is the controlled substance(s) in question. If police did not have probable cause or obtain a search warrant prior to conducting a search, any evidence obtained in the search was obtained illegally and are therefore not admissible in court. For drug crimes, an illegal search and seizure defense can shut down the prosecution’s case.
Many drug crimes involve sting operations with undercover law enforcement. If undercover officers compel a defendant to commit a crime that he or she would not have otherwise committed, this is known as entrapment. In this case, the element of intent is not present and the defendant is not guilty.
Lack of Knowledge
In some cases, the defendant may be unaware that they are in possession of a controlled substance. For example, if you rent a car with drugs already concealed in the dashboard, you are unaware that you are transporting drugs.
Concerned about Drug Crime Charges?
If you or a loved one are currently facing drug crime charges, it’s understandable (and wise) to be concerned and take this matter seriously.
Drug charges in Colorado come with severe penalties and require excellent legal representation. A good Denver criminal defense attorney will be able to put together the best possible defense for your case, maximizing your chance of a favorable outcome.
Start fighting for your future by getting in touch with us now.