September 28, 2023
Being convicted in certain circumstances of drug possession in Colorado can result in serious penalties. However, Colorado is one state that has looked to change its approach to drug crimes over the last few years.
The state has made marijuana legal and has decriminalized the possession of certain quantities of narcotics. So, if you find yourself in court facing a drug charge, things may not look as bleak as they once may have been. In fact, the state has been working to create alternatives for people who are guilty of drug crimes that do not involve time in jail.
If you’re wondering what the alternatives to jail are in Colorado, here’s what you need to know.
What Are Colorado’s Current Drug Laws?
The drug laws in Colorado make it illegal to sell, use, manufacture, or possess controlled substances. However, since 2020, it’s not a felony in Colorado any longer to possess up to four grams of certain narcotics, such as heroin or methamphetamine. If you are found in possession of these, then you will be charged with misdemeanor possession, which can result in probation instead of jail time.
In Colorado, it is also legal for anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. However, if you are under 21 or you have more than one ounce, then you can be charged with a crime. The drug laws in Colorado heavily favor treatment over jail time, at least for initial drug possession charges.
Drug use and drug possession charges in the state are often misdemeanors, but possession of any amount of the following is a felony:
- More than four grams of drugs on Schedule I or II
What Are the Alternatives to Jail Time?
Because Colorado has chosen to favor rehabilitation over incarceration, there are many different avenues potentially available to those who do break current drug laws, especially if it’s your first offense. The most common alternatives to jail time include:
Someone charged with their first drug misdemeanor in Colorado may be eligible for pretrial diversion. This is a procedure under which the court delays the case against you for up to two years as you work to complete a required drug program. Within that two year time frame, if you meet the conditions set forth by the program, then the court agrees to drop the charges against you.
In most cases, those under a period of diversion have to follow these rules:
- They must attend drug classes and/or group counseling
- They must go to court-ordered mental health treatment or parenting classes as well as any other classes ordered by the court
- They must pay all the fees ordered by the court
- They must agree to be randomly drug tested – and they must show up for the tests
- They must not use drugs or alcohol, including prescribed narcotics or medical marijuana
- They cannot possess a firearm
- They cannot commit any serious traffic violations
This occurs after someone has been found guilty of a low-level drug felony or pleaded “no contest” to it. Often referred to as a “wobbler sentence”, deferred sentencing will require the defendant to enter a drug treatment program while they are on probation for their crime. Successfully completing this program will then reduce felony charges to misdemeanor ones.
The types of drug crimes that are eligible for deferred sentencing include:
- Possession of four grams or more of a Schedule I or II drug
- Possession of more than three ounces of hashish or up to 12 ounces of marijuana
- Acquiring drugs through the use of fraud or deceit
- Level 4 drug felonies
This type of sentencing cannot be used in cases for those who have been previously convicted of a violent crime anywhere. You’re also ineligible if you have two or more felonies in your criminal history, such as drug crimes, sex crimes, or violent crimes.
If your case is suitable for any of the above alternatives, then your case may be sent to Colorado’s drug court. This is separate from the criminal courts that have previously presided over drug crimes. This specialized court provides supervision for those who are addicted to drugs.
In order to qualify for drug court, your case will be examined, and they will determine if you have a risk level that fits within the parameters of the court. If you do, then you have to successfully complete drug court, usually by going to counseling, treatment, taking random drug screenings, appearing at all court hearings, and fulfilling anything else the court asks you to do. If you follow through on these requirements, then your case can be dismissed at the end.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.