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HB19-1263: Reducing Penalties for Certain Drug Offenses

Helping Certain Drug Offenders Get Back on Their Feet

On March 1, 2020, Colorado changed the offense levels and possible penalties for certain drug possession violations that fall under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 2013. HB19-1263, titled “Offense Level For Controlled Substance Possession,” lowers the sentences for specific drug offenses, which can benefit convicted criminals in the long run.

Part of HB19-1263 creates a new program “ … to provide grants to counties that provide substance abuse or mental health treatment services to, facilitate diversion programs for, or develop other strategies to reduce jail and prison bed use by, persons who come into contact with the criminal justice system.” In other words, the bill focuses on rehabilitating certain drug offenders by directing them to treatment programs rather than punishing them with extensive prison time.

A county is eligible to receive a grant if it provides such treatment services and programs in collaboration with public health agencies, law enforcement agencies, and community-based organizations.

HB19-1263 Impacts

One of the most notable changes enforced by the bill is that the possession of 4 grams or less of most controlled substances listed in schedules I or II is classified as a level 1 drug misdemeanor, as opposed to a class 4 felony. In other words, the law is relaxing its sentencing on possession of certain amounts of schedules I and II drugs by punishing them as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Exceptions to these revisions include the following:

  • The possession of any amount of flunitrazepam, ketamine, gamma hydroxybutyrate (date rape drug)
  • A fourth or subsequent offense for a specified violation is a level 4 drug felony

The bill states that you may not be arrested for the petty offense possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana. But a court can issue a warrant for your arrest if you fail to appear in court, as required by your summons.

Further, the bill asserts that the “ … District Attorney shall not charge or prosecute a person pursuant to this section for any minuscule, residual, or unusable amount of a controlled substance that may be present in a used hypodermic needle or syringe, or other drug paraphernalia …” Simply put, you won’t be punished for tiny amounts of drugs that you may find in drug paraphernalia.

Level 1 vs. Level 2 Misdemeanors

Examples of schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, morphine, peyote, psilocybin, mescaline, and ecstasy. Schedule II drugs include amphetamine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, opium, cocaine, codeine, morphine, methadone, and fentanyl.

A level 1 drug misdemeanor, by definition, is the possession of more than 6 ounces of marijuana or more than 3 ounces of marijuana concentrate, whereas a level 2 drug misdemeanor involves the possession of 3 ounces or less of marijuana concentrate.

If convicted of a level 1 drug misdemeanor, you may be punished as such:

  • Up to 180 days in the county jail (required as a condition of probation or a violation of probation)
    • For a third or subsequent offense, you may face up to 364 days in jail
  • Up to 2 years of probation
  • Up to $1,000 fines

If convicted of a level 2 drug misdemeanor, you may be punished as such:

  • Up to 120 days in the county jail (required as a condition of probation or a violation of probation)
    • For a third or subsequent offense, you may face up to 180 days in jail
  • Up to 1 year of probation
  • Up to $500 fines

For level 1 and level 2 misdemeanor crimes, a court is permitted to do the following:

  • Suspend a sentence to complete useful public service pursuant to the “Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 2013” when the sentence interferes with treatment or other probation requirements imposed by the court.
  • Avoid sentencing a person to complete useful public service if the person receives diversion or a deferred sentence.

For felony crimes:

  • Only those convicted of a felony drug offense must submit to the fingerprinting and photographing requirements of the “Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 2013.”

Contact Gaddis Law Today!

If you’ve been accused of a drug crime, it’s in your best interests to contact Gaddis Law as soon as possible. While certain drug possession crimes are punished less severely than they once were, that doesn’t mean you won’t face life-changing consequences if convicted.

While HB19-1263 is intended to help those accused of low-level drug offenses, there is still a high potential that your penalties may cause you to miss out on important opportunities regarding jobs, housing, financial aid, and relationships with loved ones. Thus, we urge you to schedule your free consultation online or by calling (719) 553-5766 now!