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What is Colorado’s ‘Defelonization’ of Single-Use Drugs?

What is Colorado’s ‘Defelonization’ of Single-Use Drugs?

Facing drug charges is not something anyone would want to be caught with. In Colorado, while the state takes drug crimes seriously, there is a newer law that could mean a lesser punishment for someone charged.

What is the Defelonization Law?

In May 2019, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed bill HB19-1263. In this law, having possession of certain drugs does not necessarily mean the person caught will face an automatic felony. Anyone caught dealing the drugs, however, would still be charged with a felony.

How are Drug Charges Defined in Colorado?

The state organizes drugs into five categories, called schedules, according to their potential for abuse.

  • Schedule I drugs: These drugs have the highest risk of dependency are not legal to use even for medical treatment. Examples of these types of drugs include LSD and heroin.
  • Schedule II drugs: These drugs also have a high risk of dependency but some may be acceptable for medical uses. Examples of these types of drugs include opium, fentanyl, and cocaine.
  • Schedule III drugs: These drugs have a moderate risk of abuse and can also be prescribed for medical treatment. These types of drugs include codeine, steroids, and certain depressants.
  • Schedule IV drugs: These types of drugs have a small chance for abuse and are widely used in the medical field. These include sedatives and clonazepam.
  • Schedule V drugs: These are best described as medications, such as over-the-counter drugs, and have an extremely low potential for abuse.

Prior to HB19-1263, those caught with Schedule I or II drugs would have a high risk of facing a felony charge. With HB19-1263 in place, those caught with less than four grams of a Schedule I or II drugs could be charged with a misdemeanor instead. There are always exceptions to the rule, such as if this is not the person’s first time getting caught with drugs and what other violations took place in addition to having the drugs.

What is the Benefit of the Defelonization Law?

For those caught with a Schedule I or Schedule II drug, the defelonization law is a benefit. Having a felony on your record can make it difficult to manage everyday life — many employers don’t want to hire someone with a felony on their record and property managers usually don’t want to rent to someone with a felony on their record. By having the crimes be classified as misdemeanors instead, it can make it easier for someone with the charges on their record to carry on with their life.

According to The Denver Post, another positive outcome of the bill is the cost to taxpayers. By avoiding mandatory time behind bars for Schedule I and II drug offenses, the state could save anywhere from $8.6 to $13.7 million by 2024.

What is the Downfall of the Defelonization Law?

There are some who are opposed to the new law. Those opponents say that the savings will not be that significant for the state.

Officials also noted concern for the new law stating that four grams of fentanyl is the equivalent of more than 13,000 fatal incidents. In a 2017 Congressional hearing concerning the rise in fentanyl cases, it was noted that it only takes two milligrams of fentanyl to kill someone whether that is swallowed, absorbed through someone’s skin, or inhaled. For comparison of what two milligrams is equivalent to, a packet of sugar is about 1,000 milligrams.

What Punishments Could Someone Charged in These Drug Cases Face?

Under the new law now, if someone is charged with a level 1 drug misdemeanor they could face up to 180 days in jail or two years probation and a fine up to $1,000. A level 2 drug misdemeanor could mean 120 days in jail or one-year probation with a fine of up to $500.

If you or a loved one are facing drug charges you’ll want an attorney on your side who knows the laws. At the Law Office of Kevin Cahill we know what to expect and have helped others like you during this difficult time. Get the experience you need by calling our office today (720) 548-2990.

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